Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) Spain, Femme à la résille (Woman in a hairnet), 1938. Oil on canvas, 460 x 380 mm. Julian and Josie Robertson Collection.
AUCKLAND CITY.- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki today announced a promised gift of 15 works of art to the gallery through its Foundation – including well-known paintings by Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Piet Mondrian – the largest gift ever made to an art museum in Australasia.
The gift, from New York art collectors and philanthropists Julian and Josie Robertson, represents some of the major European artists of the modern era, dating from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. Its art historical and cultural value places it among the most generous philanthropic acts in New Zealand history.
The gift is drawn from a private collection that largely focuses on modernist works. While frequently called on to lend to art museums, this is the first time the Robertsons have gifted work. Selected by the gallery’s director, the effect of the gift will be far-reaching, transforming Auckland’s ability to tell the story of modern art.
In 2006, the Auckland Art Gallery organised an exhibition of 12 works from the Julian and Josie Robertson collection, also shown at Te Papa in Wellington. Six of those works are included in the gift. The overwhelming response to that exhibition, much of it from young visitors, had a profound and lasting effect on the Robertsons.
Julian and Josie Robertson have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with this country and want New Zealanders to enjoy works of art of a kind usually only experienced in this number through travelling to the major museums of Europe and the United States. This gift enables them to give something meaningful back to a country they love.
The Robertsons said, “We have had a lifelong love affair with New Zealand. We love Auckland. And we love these pictures. That’s why we were so pleased when we brought these works to New Zealand that New Zealanders seemed to enjoy them as much as we do. Frankly, bringing the pictures was probably the most appreciated thing we have ever done. We are delighted to be able to make this gift."
Mayor of Auckland City John Banks said, “The Julian and Josie Robertson collection is an extraordinarily precious gift to the people of Auckland. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this collection to our city and to Aucklanders who have previously had to travel overseas to see art of this calibre.
Now, visitors will be travelling to Auckland to witness a collection of a size and importance of international quality. The city will honour and cherish this collection in perpetuity, displaying it for thousands of visitors each year in our magnificent refurbished Art Gallery.”
Gallery director Chris Saines said, “We are thrilled to receive this truly astonishing gift. It represents many of the major artists who attended the birth of modernism, their works illustrating the history of European art at one of its most crucial turning points. In every sense of the term, this is a textbook collection – Modern Art History 101.
This gift will elevate and expand the gallery’s collections and give them a depth and a set of pictorial reference points that will immediately work to make more sense of the development of modern and contemporary art in New Zealand. Auckland’s European modern collection will stand against the finest in the region.
For the first time in its 121-year history, the gallery will be able to provide continuous access to a persuasive story of modern art at one of its most transformational moments, seen through the eyes of many of its major figures. The Robertson gift generously lifts our collections’ horizon and we are simply delighted with this news.”
The Julian and Josie Robertson gift comes at an important time for the gallery as it undertakes the development of a world-class building, due to open in April 2011. Auckland City Council is driving this ambitious $113 million heritage refurbishment and expansion, which will more than double the scale of the previous visitor experience. It has major funding partner support from central government and the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation.
Chairman of the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation, John Judge said, “The Auckland Art Gallery Foundation is honoured to be part of Julian and Josie Robertson’s settlement of this fabulous gift on the gallery. Its breathtaking generosity demonstrates an immense degree of confidence in the gallery. I know it will galvanise my fellow trustees and potential donors as we move forward with our capital campaign in support of a new gallery for Auckland.
In recognition of this singular act of philanthropy, the developed Auckland Art Gallery’s Level One Kitchener Street rooms will be named the Julian and Josie Robertson Galleries when the new building opens in 2011. It is the donors’ hope as it is mine, that the promised gift might be on display for a short time following that opening and at intervals thereafter.”
The Julian and Josie Robertson Gift
This group of 12 paintings and three works on paper represents some of the defining art movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; post-impressionism, fauvism, cubism, surrealism and abstraction. Comparatively few works of this kind and quality can be found in the major public collections in New Zealand or Australia.
Central to the collection is a work of 1875-76 by Paul Cézanne, the father of modern art, and an early (1911) ‘analytic’ and a late (1938) ‘synthetic’ cubist work by Georges Braque, one of the principal inheritors of Cézanne’s revolutionary style. Cézanne sought to return a sense of ‘the permanent’ to painting; ‘the art of the museum’, beyond the fleeting world of impressionism.
Pablo Picasso, co-inventor of cubism with Braque, is represented by a surrealist-inspired study (1938) of Dora Maar, the photographer who documented his 1937 anti-war mural Guernica, together with a group portrait (1951) of a later lover François Gilot and their two children Claude and Paloma. An important Salvador Dalí (1933-34) further epitomizes the surrealist spirit.
The great colourist and draughtsman Henri Matisse is represented by three works; a decoratively elegant study of a young model in Spanish costume, painted in Nice (1921); the 24 pochoir sheet Jazz series (1947), arguably the world’s most recognized artist’s book; and a gouache-painted paper cut-out (ca 1949-50), seen in the 2006 Robertson collection exhibition.
Other works include an early impressionist-inspired landscape (1884) by Paul Gauguin, almost a decade before his stop-over in Auckland (with visits to its gallery and museum) en route to Tahiti; a coastal landscape (1906) painted in a riot of primary colour by André Derain, one of the Fauve group; and a Henri Fantin-Latour still-life (1875), a work of lucid and refined naturalism.
The remaining paintings include a small and rare study in gouache on paper (ca 1920) by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, a work in which geometric abstraction takes its purest form; an intimately scaled still-life (ca 1930) by Pierre Bonnard; and a late cubist work by Fernand Léger (1918), a ’mechanical’ picture for a new machine age.
The 15 works have been astutely collected, with a close interest in how each new work builds on the last. Together, they form a compelling narrative on the shifting approaches and forms of modern art at one of the most pivotal and revolutionary moments in art history, which the critic and writer Robert Hughes characterised as ‘The Shock of the New’.
Julian and Josie Robertson
Julian H Robertson Jr. and Josie Robertson have enjoyed a long and close involvement with New Zealand. Encouraged at first by Josie Robertson’s art history studies, the couple began collecting over 15 years ago and gradually built up an impressive body of work that broadly spans the period 1850 to 1950.
Philanthropy has been at the heart of the Robertsons’ commitment to the communities in which they have lived and worked. They have provided support for an array of charitable entities through their individual giving, as well as through the Robertson Foundation and other affiliated foundations.
Julian Robertson serves on a number of organisation and university boards. He is founder and benefactor of the Robertson Scholars Program that awards leadership scholarships for 45 University of North Carolina and Duke University students each year and is a supporter of the North Carolina Museum of Art.
He is currently on the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Environmental Defense, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. He also remains a staunch supporter in the campaign to stop global warming and actively supports marine conservation.
Julian Robertson is on the Executive Committee of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and is a member of the National Board of Advisors of the Children's Scholarship Fund. He joined the Cancer Research Institute in 1968, became its president in 1970 and 1974, and has served as a vice-chairman since 1976.
A leading New York investor, Julian Robertson came to prominence in the business world as one of the most successful and dominant figures in the United States financial market from 1980 when he co-founded Tiger Management L.L.C., which eventually became the world’s largest hedge fund.
Together with Josie Robertson and their family, Julian Robertson has in some ways pursued a ‘second career’ in New Zealand, developing two world-class golf resorts and lodges and pursuing a determination to increase the profile of New Zealand wine in the US market. They own the iconic TeAwa and Dry River wineries.
Their golf courses, Kauri Cliffs in Northland and Cape Kidnappers in the Hawke’s Bay, are ranked consistently among the best in the world. In 2008, both played host to the inaugural Kiwi Challenge, a match between four major golfers playing for a large purse, broadcast live to an international audience.
The Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers lodges feature modern and contemporary New Zealand paintings, while the resorts themselves reflect the Robertsons interest in growing New Zealand’s tourism and sporting infrastructure and bringing its outstanding natural environment and wine industry to the world’s attention.