About Chartwell

Simon Morris
Acrylic on canvas

Welcome to the Chartwell website

The Chartwell Collection is a collection of contemporary art from New Zealand and Australia that has been held on long term loan at the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand, since 1997.

Since the Chartwell Trust was founded in Hamilton, New Zealand, in the early 1970s and was established as an independent charitable trust, the Chartwell Collection itself began in 1974. Since then it has grown from early New Zealand acquisitions in the 1970s, through the first acquisitions of Australian works in the 1980s, to the establishment of a collection of more than 1500 works in 2016. The commitment to the exploration of creativity through the medium of contemporary art has also continued to develop in depth along with the determination to enable access to the Collection and to contemporary art on a wider basis.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, a relationship with the Waikato Museum of Art and History, Hamilton, meant that Chartwell Collection works were always held on loan in a public art institution and were included in many exhibitions there.

Now held on long term loan at the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland, New Zealand, the Collection is seen through a programme of exhibitions, from major Chartwell exhibitions to its use by curators at the Auckland Art Gallery as part of their collection exhibition programmes. It is also seen through loans from the collection to exhibitions around New Zealand and overseas. This is an important part of the Collection philosophy - to be an active resource: available for exhibition and available on the web for research and education.

We invite our web readers to contribute tags to the art work pages and we plan to add more information to the site as time goes on. You can search all works in the collection through the Explore the Collection / Show All Works option in the tool bar above. This is updated via Vernon records on a regular basis. However, for the most up to date records, the Recent Acquisitions option provides access to information on the most current additions to the Collection.

If an image search reveals a blank box, it is because Chartwell either does not have approval to use the image from the artist or because an image is pending. With world-wide calls to 'get art out of the basement', Chartwell has responded with this comprehensive website catalogue which provides a forum for much of the collection while not being exhibited. While viewing online is not quite the same as an exhibition, these works are made accessible for online researchers.

Chartwell values our ongoing relationship with the Auckland Art Gallery

Director Rhana Devenport said in 2016, "This is a critically important, enduring partnership. The Auckland Art Gallery's purpose is to be a creative catalyst for art and ideas, offering transformational experiences that strengthen and enrich our communities. The Gallery’s vision is to be the home of art for Auckland, its people and visitors, and a cultural leader in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Chartwell Collection provides a valuable, unique and constantly expanding cultural resource – it is unquestionably one of the most important independently-held contemporary New Zealand collections in existence. The Collection provides an exceptional resource for students, researchers, curators, conservators, educators as well as audiences through exhibitions. Loaning of works from the Collection – encouraged with the fact that 99.9% of the Gallery’s collections are available online – further expands the visibility of the Chartwell Collection to audiences in New Zealand and abroad. Scholarship and innovation are central to the Gallery’s vision and the Chartwell Collection provides expanding possibilities for both." Rhana Devenport, 2016

In 2011, Chris Saines, then Director of Auckland Art Gallery, wrote of the collection and its links with the Auckland Art Gallery.

"The collection development and philanthropic programmes of the Chartwell Trust must now constitute one of the most determined and ambitious programmes of any private charitable trust anywhere in the world. Over almost 30 years of unswerving commitment to the visual arts – in particular that of New Zealand and Australia – Chartwell has staked out a unique piece of ground that simultaneously nourishes and shelters the contemporary art practice of this region. While many countries might enjoy the support of cultural funding agencies and have generous individuals to endow the national patrimony, few can lay claim to a trust that works so widely and passionately in the cause of its culture.

More critically, at least for the New Zealand community in which the Chartwell Trust and its collection live, it is not a private enterprise but a public one that somehow gainfully occupies the space between. Since its foundation in 1974 its growth has been almost entirely the responsibility of one person, trustee Robert Gardiner, who has relished a freedom from almost every condition that large collection based art institutions impose. This has created a collection that positively crackles with points of difference from every other institutional and major private collection in New Zealand – Chartwell is simply not and never has been more of the same. 

Of course this makes the collection an even more effective diagnostic of art’s prevailing condition. And this is particularly so when it also draws on a major institutional collection like Auckland’s. Since management responsibility for the Chartwell Collection transferred to this gallery in 1997, curators such as William McAloon, Allan Smith, Robert Leonard, Natasha Conland and Stephen Cleland have developed exhibitions from its holdings. For all that, however, it gets no easier to discern a dominant aesthetic or a binding programmatic structure within Chartwell.

Perhaps this is because Chartwell, in its collecting and in its project support, has always pursued an open and lateral system. There is a generosity and an idiosyncrasy of spirit here that is unconstrained by publicly funded outcomes and acquittals, and it will be nowhere more apparent than within these virtual walls. I say that because it might be difficult for many outside New Zealand to fully comprehend the courage of building and maintaining this sort of project for this length of time in this country. This is not the kind of gilt-edged arts based philanthropy that thrives on tax relief – of a kind which doesn’t exist here – it is a remarkably intentioned challenge to think more about how contemporary visual art works." Chris Saines, 2011.