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Celebrating a decade of patron group’s contribution to museum

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To celebrate the power of community support, MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum, Tai Ahuriri marks the 10th anniversary of its patron group, MTG Foundation, with an exhibition of their remarkable contributions to the region’s collection, Pictures and Other Works. Each piece from the collection stands as a testament to the Foundation's dedication to preserving and expanding the cultural richness of Hawke's Bay.

The roots of this celebration extend back to the will of Mary Bestall, whose generous bequest was dedicated to new acquisitions. In her will she specified funds should be used for the purchase of pictures and others works of art, hence the exhibition title.

From the outset, the institute depended on the visionary contributions of the likes of Mary Bestall and other extraordinary individuals. Early shapers such as William Colenso whose passion for inquiry saw him, along with others, grow the institute (as it was then) into a centre for learning. Others like Augustus Hamilton pressed upon the institute the urgency in collecting items “which illustrate the history or arts of [Māori]”, and Leo Bestall who pulled the community of Napier together to raise funds for the redevelopment of what we now know as MTG (museum, theatre, gallery). Douglas Llyod Jenkins too, established unprecedented visibility for the museum’s focus on design, unique in the country. All have left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.

Yet, it wasn't solely these trailblazers who shaped the museum; it was those who stood with them, patrons, benefactors, and donors, who brought the means to make those dreams a reality. For the last ten years this group has been the MTG Foundation, a group of dedicated Hawke's Bay individuals who have fuelled the museum's ambitions and turned them into tangible reality, this group has funded the acquisition of many extraordinary art works.

The exhibition, Pictures and Other Works showcases these acquisitions, each ‘work of art’ a testament to the foundation's unwavering commitment. Among the notable works is Erotic Couch by Philip Clairmont (renown New Zealand expressionist). This painting from 1977, a gift from the MTG Foundation, is an example of some of the best painting of his career.

Another standout piece is Great Grandfather Clock by Ben Pearce, made of an exquisite variety of English and American black walnut, rātā, and puriri. A tribute to Pearce's watchmaker great grandfather, who Pearce never knew but who’s tools he once encountered in a family attic. The clock structure echoes the way we construct familial narratives from archival fragments; anecdotes, photographs, and objects that form our understanding of those we never knew.

As we walk through Pictures and Other Works, we not only celebrate the art but also the spirit of the MTG Foundation. Their commitment and support have not only shaped a museum over the last decade but has contributed significantly to the cultural identity of Hawke's Bay.

Here's to a decade of artistic vision, community collaboration, and the continued legacy of Mary Bestall's visionary bequest.

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper 2 December 2023 and written by Toni MacKinnon, Art Curator at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Image: Philip Clairmont, Erotic Couch, 1977. Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi [91354]. Gifted by the MTG Foundation © Orlando Clairmont.

4 December 2023

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