Chartwell believes deeply in the importance of creative visual thinking for all.

The Chartwell Trust was set up in the early 1970s by Robert Gardiner, CNZM, then a Hamilton businessman and accountant, as a charitable trust to realise Chartwell's vision for wider access to and deeper understanding of creative visual thinking.

The Chartwell Collection was established in 1974 as a privately managed public collection. It was a new model for its time in New Zealand. From the beginning, all acquisitions went immediately into public gallery care and use. With its first home at the Waikato Museum of Art and History, by 1982, Chartwell had opened the Centre for Contemporary Art in Hamilton to house the growing collection. Fifteen years later, the Collection moved to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki on long-term loan, where it can still be seen today.

We want everyone to know more about seeing and thinking... through collecting, supporting, researching and advocating for the visual arts and creative thinking as a process.

Rob Gardiner

As a New Zealand registered charitable trust, the Chartwell Trust has a board of trustees with extensive experience in the visual arts, public gallery partnerships,  visual arts philanthropy, publishing, education and related research, charitable art projects, governance matters, financial and legal experience. It works closely with public art gallery professionals, curators, writers and academics to deliver impactful programmes centred around access for all to knowledge of the creative mind. All policies are orientated towards cultural and community services.

In 2023, the Chartwell Project continues its commitment to help our community see and understand the processes of visual art making and the nature of the creative mind. We are proud to support and activate the education sector, artists and researchers, complement our public art gallery spaces, collections and exhibitions - and we ultimately hope to realise the potential for everyone's creative sense-based thinking.

We are advocates for participation in making and understanding art as a process, as action with intention and fulfilment. The deep impulse to make and create defines us as human beings and energises all aspects of the personal and communal. Important to us too is the context of seeing and the power of empathy, as we mirror the world around us.

In a marrying of making and knowledge, Chartwell's activities and projects are divided into four key domains - Being, Seeing, Making and Thinking. This website is our 'gallery without walls.' Here, you can access Chartwell Collection artists, works in the collection, recent acquisitions, exhibitions, research and philosophical writings, and a sampling of the other projects we support. We hope too, that you will explore our social change ambitions - to learn and work, think and empathise creatively in broader domains beyond art itself.

“The Chartwell Trust is committed to more than the acquisition of contemporary art as an end in itself. It is about making those works coherent to others, making them work as part of a belief that contemporary art can fundamentally change how we think about and understand our place in the world.”

- Chris Saines, Former Director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 1999