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Exhibition celebrates 50th anniversary of visionary art project

19 February 2024

Fifty years of art collecting will be showcased with a new exhibition opening at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, with work by many renowned artists including Gretchen Albrecht, Max Gimblett, and Terry Stringer.

Open from Friday 23 February 2024, Decades Charted: A window into the Chartwell Collection is an exhibition of artworks selected from the Chartwell Collection, a significant collection of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australian contemporary art which was established in Kirikiriroa Hamilton by Robert Gardiner in 1974.

“We welcome these key artworks back to Kirikiriroa Hamilton in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Chartwell Collection, and it has been a pleasure working with the Chartwell Trust to enable this to happen,” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts. 

“The exhibition features bold and colourful work purchased during the Trust’s Kirikiriroa Hamilton years, 1974 to 1997. It captures the vibrant and experimental art scene of the 1970s and 1980s, expressing a youthful break from post-war conservatism. Robert Gardiner’s vision means we can now revel in this golden age of Aotearoa New Zealand art.”

“In developing the Chartwell Trust and Chartwell Collection, founding Trustee Robert Gardiner held a steadfast commitment to support, widen access to and strengthen the visual arts culture in Aotearoa New Zealand. Now we can all celebrate, fifty years on, the value of a deeper understanding of creative visual thinking, for individuals, communities and cities into the future,” said Sue Gardiner, Chair Chartwell Charitable Trust.

The Chartwell Collection was established in 1974 by Robert Gardiner CNZM, OMNZ, then a Hamilton businessman and accountant. As a privately-managed public collection, it was a new model for its time as all acquisitions went immediately into public gallery care and use. Chartwell’s time in Kirikiriroa Hamilton saw the Trust support Waikato Museum and significantly expand the Collection alongside a fast-paced exhibition programme at Chartwell’s Centre for Contemporary Art, established in 1982 at the former Hamilton Hotel on Victoria Street. The building is now being transformed into the Waikato Regional Theatre and retains the façade and iconic window shape of the original building.

As well as a unique cross-section of 20th century works by Aotearoa New Zealand artists, Decades Charted: A window into the Chartwell Collection features a remarkable series of photographs by Robin Morrison. The images were commissioned by Chartwell, and later gifted to Waikato Museum’s collection, to document the refurbishment of the Hamilton Hotel prior to the Centre for Contemporary Art opening in 1982. The Chartwell Collection moved to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in 1997 and works are frequently loaned for exhibitions around Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas.

Decades Charted: A window into the Chartwell Collection is open daily from 10am to 5pm at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 21 July 2024. Entry is free.

A Chartwell 50th Anniversary Project. 


Please note 

For te reo Maaori, Waikato Museum uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words. Artists’ titles are shown in their original form.