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The Gallery’s doors opened for the first time on Friday 17 February 1888. Sir George Grey’s gift formed the core of the early collection, and we shared the building with Auckland’s Free Public Library. From these beginnings focussing on European and British art, we now have more than 16,000 works in the collection, and our redeveloped building provides purpose-built spaces for regularly changing exhibitions.
Auckland Art Gallery has grown its collection of artworks with acquisitions, gifts, bequests and long-term loans. Major collection donors have included James Mackelvie, who with Sir George Grey was a founding patron, and in the present day, the Chartwell Trust and Julian and Josie Robertson.
The collection includes major holdings of New Zealand historic, modern and contemporary art. These artworks plot a visual history of New Zealand, beginning with the first contact between Māori and European explorers in the 1600s. Outstanding works by Māori and Pacific Island artists are a powerful feature of our holdings, and the international painting, sculpture and print collections connect us with the world beyond the Pacific. The diversity of mediums and artistic practices in the collection also continues to grow. Our oldest work of art is a sandstone figure from the walls of a Hindu temple in North India. It dates from the 10th–12th century. And our newest is likely to be a commissioned artwork we are creating with an artist right now. Taken together, our holdings are widely considered to comprise New Zealand’s pre-eminent public art collection. [source]