Collections for a public art museum are the ‘heart and soul’ of the institution and the cultural memory of their communities. The Whangarei Art Museum collection has grown enormously since it opened 15 years ago this month on 31st May 1996.
We are now pleased to announce two significant and very different collections will also be showcased in the opening exhibitions at the New Art Museum on Quayside in September 2011.
One is a gift collection of over 100 artefacts and ephemera from the Maria and Franz Iseke estate and the other is a similar number of highly important early colonial period paintings on long-term loan to the art museum from the Arboretum Trust Collection.
Franz and Maria Iseke were well known to the art museum having visited exhibitions regularly and Maria and her family have subsequently decided to gift a significant collection of Papua, New Guinean and Melanesian artefacts to the Whangarei Art Museum collection. The collection itself encapsulates a love story, for Maria and Franz both met in Papua New Guinea in the mid-1970’s and many of the artefacts were gifts to them both, from the various indigenous communities they visited.
Franz Iseke arrived in New Zealand as a German immigrant in the early 1950’s and established himself in Auckland as an admired modernist architect of domestic and commercial properties. In 1976, Franz was seconded to a position with the Ministry of Works in Lae, Papua New Guinea as Senior Engineer and architect in challenging terrain and even more challenging times politically, for the Melanesian nation.
At the same time Maria was a German student of music, also seconded to Papua New Guinea by the Lutheran Church in Germany to record and research the music, chants and songs of worship and ceremony of the various hill tribes of the Western Highlands. Maria also documented the influence of the early Christian missionaries in the region. Maria and Franz met and married in Papua New Guinea, and often travelled together on their separate work assignments.
The collection donated includes many ‘museum quality’ artefacts including some very old, as well as more contemporary material. It is diverse and includes carvings and ceremonial ancestor images, domestic items including ceramics, fibre art, weapons, body adornment and status objects such as tapa, shark teeth, boar’s teeth and Bird of Paradise feathers. It is fitting that the collection embraces both male and female art forms, and musical connections to Maria’s career. A small part of the collection will be on view at the Art Lounge and at the reception of the Whangarei Library and later more substantially at the new art museum on Quayside.
This collection now allows us to truly ‘rebrand’ as a museum of arts and cultures and to showcase our particular place in the Pacific. The team and the trustees of the Whangarei Art Museum are grateful to the Iseke extended family for this most generous gift.