After many years of concerted community effort, the Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery has opened on Whangārei’s waterfront.
The magnificent, architecturally unique building opened its doors in late February 2022, welcoming visitors with its zany, exuberant flair and keeping them smiling for the entire experience, with multicoloured walls, floors, stairs, window boxes and atriums. Surprises at every turn include wavy floors, shiny ceramic details, random things popped into plaster between bricks or welded into wrought iron railings and everywhere, mosaic tiles. Hundreds of thousands of multi-hued tiles shimmer, star-like, on the exterior and interior surfaces, alongside recycled timbers and old, gnarly bricks.
On permanent display in the upstairs galleries is the exhibition Hundertwasser in New Zealand 1973-2000 showcasing the art and legacy of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who spent his last years in Northland. He wa san environmentalist at heart and embraced the organic, thus the undulating ground floor of the museum and the hand-drawn quality of patterns and lines.
Also within the centre is Wairau Māori Art Gallery, a large and inviting exhibition space dedicated to contemporary Māori art. Curated shows will change a few times through each year; the opening show, Puhi Ariki, features work of various media by artists who whakapapa to Northland.
On the roof of the gallery is a garden laden with trees – fruit and native – rare plants, grasses and a meandering path leading to the gold-leafed cupola with views over the city and harbour. Although not part of the official Vienna Foundation-controlled design applied to all things Hundertwasser, the museum café extends the playful mood with curves, colour and elements made of upcycled wood and locally-made glass. It has a terrace overlooking the waterfront and a menu loaded with local produce.
Door prices to the Hundertwasser Art Centre vary, locals get a discount and while Covid is in play, visitors need to book time slots to visit.
Reported by Kathryn Webster for our Autumn 2022 issue