Opening of Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangārei delayed by two months
The centre – the last building designed by the late Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser – was due to open on his birthday, December 15, but will now open on February 20.
However, visitors will be able to properly see the building’s exterior and walk around the grounds on Whangārei’s waterfront when the construction fences come down on December 3.
On the same day, the centre’s restaurant and bar Aqua will open, allowing diners to get a glimpse of its interior.
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The building was first designed by Hundertwasser in 1993, originally to convert the former Northland Harbour Board building into an art gallery.
But the project has not been straightforward – much like Hundertwasser’s artistic philosophy which abhors straight lines.
The project was twice scrapped – once in 1993 when the Northland Regional Council did not wish to sell its habour building, and again in 2014 when Whangārei District Councillors withdrew council funding for the project.
The project hit another snag when it was discovered the former harbour board building could not be used for the project and had to be dismantled. The first foundation piles were driven in September 2018.
This is the second time Covid-19 restrictions have delayed the project’s opening, with 2020’s lockdowns causing six months of delays.
Thomas Biss, the chairman of governing body Hatea Art Precinct Trust, said the Hundertwasser Art Centre was no exception for falling prey to the uncertain times created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The impact of the pandemic has been felt deeply throughout the Northland and Auckland regions, and this has prevented Wairau Māori Art Gallery from being able to assemble their inaugural exhibition,” he said.
There have also been delays with the delivery of art from Europe, with the centre set to display the largest collection of Hundertwasser’s art outside of Vienna.
There were also delays getting essential materials, such as the accessible stair lift connecting the rooftop garden to the gold cupola, compounded by difficulties getting technicians from Auckland to complete the work, Biss said.
Wairau Māori Art Gallery Charitable Trust chairwoman Elizabeth Ellis said the delay would be worth the wait for visitors.
The Wairau Māori Art Gallery will be New Zealand’s first public gallery dedicated solely to profiling Māori artists and curators, and will showcase the best of Māori art, she said.