When I visited the Auckland Decorative & Fine Arts Society to give a lecture, my hostess Anne Gambrill picked me up at the airport and swept me off for lunch to the Pah Homestead, which is – as the old V&A advert might have said – a very fine café with an art gallery attached [http://www.pahcafe.co.nz/index.cfm].
The homestead was built for a businessman, James Williamson, in 1877-9, to designs by the father-and-son team Edward (c1824-1895) and Thomas (1855–1923) Mahoney, who also built St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Auckland.
It ceased to be a home as early as 1888, after Williamson’s death, and has been successively used by the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. Fortunately, although not a stick of furniture remains, the building itself is remarkably intact and rich in plasterwork, joinery, parquet flooring and marble fireplaces.
Auckland City Council purchased it in 2002 to develop it and the surrounding park as an amenity. As the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, the Pah Homestead opened to the public in August 2010.
It is now the home of the James Wallace Art Trust, which collects and displays contemporary New Zealand art. Sir James Wallace, who has been collecting since the early 1960s, admitted, “I learned enough trying to paint to know that I was no good at it.” Instead, he invested massively in young artists: the result is a “diary collection”, from which nothing has been sold. There is an entertaining attempt to interview Sir James at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/arts/news/article.cfm?c_id=544&objectid=10746252.
Of all that was on offer when I visited the Pah, I most enjoyed Matthew 12/12 by Gregor Kregar (b 1972) – seventy-two ceramic sheep, all in woolly jumpers, crowded into one corner of the room by a ceramic sheepdog: http://www.gregorkregar.com/Gallery/O5.html. You could say it’s a fresh interpretation of New Zealand lamb.
In addition to live sheep [http://www.gregorkregar.com/Gallery/O2.html, http://www.gregorkregar.com/Gallery/O3.html and http://www.gregorkregar.com/Gallery/O4.html] Gregor Kregar, who is based in Auckland, also does ceramic pigs [http://www.gregorkregar.com/Gallery/O7.html] and mongrels [http://www.gregorkregar.com/Gallery/O6.html]. Perhaps live pigs and mongrels are less biddable than sheep.
You can take a virtual tour of the current exhibition at the Pah Homestead at http://wallaceartstrust.org.nz/wallace-art-awards/virtual-gallery. Indeed, you can change the colour of the walls if you like.