Christchurch Art Gallery

The Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, commonly known as the Christchurch Art Gallery, is the public art gallery of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. It has its own substantial art collection and also presents a programme of New Zealand and international exhibitions. It is funded by Christchurch City Council. The gallery opened on 10 May 2003,[1] replacing the city's previous public art gallery, the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, which had opened in 1932.

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
Gallery exterior
General information
Coordinates43°31′50″S 172°37′52″E
Inaugurated10 May 2003
OwnerChristchurch City Council
Design and construction
Architecture firmBuchan Group

The Māori elements of the name are explained as follows: Te Puna honours waipuna, the artesian spring beneath the gallery and Waiwhetu refers to one of the tributaries in the immediate vicinity, which flows into the River Avon. Waiwhetu may also be translated as ‘water in which stars are reflected’.


The previous public art gallery, the Robert McDougall Art Gallery[2], opened on 16 June 1932 and closed on 16 June 2002.[3] It was located in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, adjacent to Canterbury Museum, where the building still stands unused, as of 2019.[4]

Christchurch City Council committed funds to buying land for a new gallery in 1995 and purchased the Christchurch Art Gallery site in 1996. A competition to design the new gallery was launched in 1998.[5]

The building

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū was designed by the Buchan Group. The gallery's forecourt has a large sculpture, Reason for Voyaging[6], which was the result of a collaboration between the sculptor Graham Bennett and the architect David Cole.[7]

The building was used as Civil Defence headquarters for Christchurch following the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, and again after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The gallery was designed to deal with seismic events. The gallery's foundation, a concrete raft slab that sits on the surface of the ground, evenly distributes earthquake forces. However, it sustained some damage in the 2011 earthquake.[8] The gallery building was used as a Civil Defence headquarters for seven months after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and did not reopen until 19 December 2015 due to the need for extensive refurbishments and improvements.[9]


Although the Robert McDougall Art Gallery opened in 1932, the first paid director, William Baverstock, was appointed in 1960 (he had previously served as honorary curator from 1949).[5]

  • 1960–1969: William Baverstock (1893–1975)
  • 1969–1979: Brian Muir (1943–1989)
  • 1979–1981: T. L. Rodney Wilson (1945–2013)
  • 1981–1995: John Coley
  • 1995–2006: Tony Preston
  • 2006–2018: Jenny Harper (b. 1950)[10]
  • 2018–present : Blair Jackson[11]


  1. "Grand opening for gallery of wonders". Christchurch Star. 14 May 2003. pp. A4–A5.
  2. "Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū". Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  3. "The Robert McDougall Art Gallery: a profile of the Art Gallery of the City of Christchurch, 1932–1982". Christchurch City Council. 1982.
  4. Harris, Dominic (30 April 2019). "Canterbury Museum calls for extra $12m to make former art gallery quake-proof". Stuff. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  5. "History". Christchurch Art Gallery. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  6. "Graham Bennett: Reasons for Voyaging". Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  7. "The Building". Christchurch Art Gallery. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  8. Mortimer, Frances (12 October 2014) "Not Broken, But Slightly Bowed—Lifting a Landmark Art Gallery in New Zealand" Archived 19 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine American Surveyor Magazine Frederick, Maryland
  9. Gates, Charlie (19 December 2015). "Christchurch Art Gallery reopening after nearly 5 years of closure". The Press. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  10. Small, Jamie (30 September 2017). "Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper resigns". Stuff.
  11. "New Christchurch Art Gallery director wants to 'build new audiences'". The Press. 22 March 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
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