Sir James Wallace


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I think it’s important that if you have a bit of wealth, you make it accessible to the community….People should feel obliged to give something back

In this Cultural Icons programme the conversation between arts patron, collector and Wallace Trust director Sir James Wallace and Rodney Wilson, just two days after the 2011 Annual Wallace Art Awards, provides a rare insight into the character, philosophy and motivation of one of New Zealand’s most significant arts philanthropists.

This unedited interview seamlessly traverses James’ early interest in art and music, his processes for choosing works for the Wallace Art collection, what the collection illustrates as a whole, the judging/selection process for the Wallace Awards and other developments including the establishment of the Pah Homestead.

There are wonderful insights into the art scene in this country, discussions on the changes that have occurred over the last 40 years and Sir James’ own concerns and hopes for the future of arts patronage, collecting and art institutions in New Zealand.

Artist Philip Trusttum is also discussed toward the end of the interview. Sir James Wallace has collected Trusttum’s work for decades and says he is “one of the greatest contemporary artists and yet totally neglected”. A book is currently being produced by the Wallace Trust and will accompany a retrospective at the Pah Homestead in October 2011.

James Wallace began collecting New Zealand art in the mid-1960s, with a particular focus on the work of emerging artists. In 1992 he transferred his Collection to a newly formed Charitable Trust, which he proceeded to fund so that it could continue to add to the Collection and provide support for the arts in New Zealand in general.

His original aim was to assist emerging artists through both patronage and promotion through exhibitions. however, as the Trust became more established, it broadened its scope to include the acquisition of works by artists as they continued to develop, so creating a ‘diary collection’. Gaps have often been filled through collaborations with artists and their dealers.

Nothing is ever sold so that the body of works, now numbering over 5,500, will remain in its entirety as a cultural resource for present and future generations. For some years greater public access has been given to the Collection by making bodies of works available to some 30 institutions ranging from schools, universities and science research establishments to hospitals.

In August 2010 The Wallace Arts Trust moved to its new permanent home, the historic Pah Homestead in the beautiful setting of Auckland’s Monte Cecilia Park.

Twenty years ago James Wallace established the Annual Wallace Art Awards. These awards are now the longest surviving and richest annual art awards of their kind in Australasia, amounting to over $165,000.

Beyond this the Trust financially supports many other Arts organizations in New Zealand. James Wallace is patron, trustee or board member of some 20 such institutions. (from

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