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Connecting the public with corporate art collections

Tuesday 2 Oct 2018

Artweek takes place in the city centre from 6 - 14 October 2018. Click here for full event details.

As well as the art you’ll find in the city’s streets, public spaces and galleries, there’s an incredible range of art in the boardrooms and offices of some of the city’s top corporates and big institutions.

Over the past 7 years that we’ve been running the Unlocked Collections programme of free guided tours for Artweek, we’ve taken over 1,000 people behind normally-closed doors to share collections in law and accounting firms, banks, telcos, and university and council organisations.

All of the collections we’ve featured over the years have a strong focus on New Zealand artists but the types and era of the works in them vary, and this tells some interesting stories about the companies behind the collections and NZ’s recent art history.

BNZ’s Tanya Connor tells us their collection encapsulates the real excitement of art in NZ in the 1980s, when the bank started purchasing art under the leadership of art-minded General Manager Mr W. J. Shaw and Wellington gallerist Peter McLeavy. “It’s a snapshot of time in art”. The collection has recently acquired its first new pieces since the 80s - Darryn George’s Schedule #2, Schedule #3, Schedule #4 from his Clipboard series – to commemorate BNZ’s return to the Christchurch CBD after the 2011 earthquakes.

BNZ Unlocked Collections tour, Artweek Auckland 2015. Image: Jeremy Toth.
BNZ Unlocked Collections tour, Artweek Auckland 2015. Image: Jeremy Toth.

Spark’s collection, driven by former Chief Executive Rod Deane, is held in trust by their charitable arm Spark Foundation and includes works by prominent NZ artists of the past 25 years along with more than 20 years of works from what was previously known as the Telecom Art Awards. Robyn Lentell of the Spark Foundation says having the collection displayed at the Spark City building fosters a working environment that allows staff to think creatively, be innovative and think outside of the box.

“We believe that creativity is an essential key to success in any industry.” – Robyn Lentell, Spark Foundation

Tanya says BNZ really values the opportunity to share their art with the public through the Unlocked Collections tours. “We regularly loan artworks from the collection for public display and they adorn many of our public spaces in BNZ Partners Centres in 33 locations around the country, However, we don’t often get the opportunity to show the works to the public as a collection.”

Jenny Dolezel (1987) Another Night At Home. Image: Spark Foundation.
Jenny Dolezel (1987) Another Night At Home. Image: Spark Foundation.

Robyn agrees, saying that while some pieces are visible in the Spark lobby, most of the collection is not accessible to the public. “Spark’s participation in the Unlocked Collections guided tour means that all art-lovers can experience Spark’s extensive art collection and get to enjoy the pieces as much as we at Spark do.” 

This year’s Unlocked Collections tours are fully booked. If you’d like to be kept in the loop for future tours, subscribers to our Heart of the City weekly Central City Guide emails are the first to know when bookings open. Sign up here.

  • Do you know of any art collections in the city centrethat would make for a good Unlocked Collections tour? We’d love to hear from you if so - get in touch here.