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 18,000 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.

Exhibition history

The E H McCormick Research Library keeps records of our exhibition history. Download a pdf list of these to see the scope our exhibition making down the years. 

Auckland Council and Tātaki Auckland Unlimited

Auckland City Council and its successor Auckland Council have funded the gallery from the first day we opened. The Gallery and its collection are owned and operated by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited (TAU), a council-controlled organisation working on behalf of Auckland Council and the people of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. TAU is the kaitiaki (guardian) of some of Auckland’s best-loved venues and experiences, its largest range of cultural facilities and collections (including some of national significance), and Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest performing arts platform. 

Major collection donors

1881–1885 James Tannock Mackelvie

1887–1893 Sir George Grey

1894–1952 Nathan Family

1894–1954 Sir Henry Brett

1897 Mackelvie Trust

1899–1925 Dr Thomson Leys

1899 George and Helen Boyd

1908–1915 Auckland Picture Purchase Fund

1911–1952 Auckland Society of Arts

1915 Henry E Partridge

1920–1939 Charles F Goldie

1921–1924 Viscount Lord Leverhulme

1921–1933 Moss Davis

1929 James Coleman

1939 Harry Kinder

1948–1969 Lucy Carrington Wertheim

1954 Winstone Bequest

1954–1989 Colin McCahon

1954 Friends of the Auckland Art Gallery

1958 PA Edmiston Trust

1959 Rutland Group

1961–1968 Norman B Spencer

1963 George Wooller

1972 Dennis Nathan Family

1976 M A Serra Trust

1977–1990 Lillian Gilmour

1980 Molly Morpeth Canaday Trust

1982 Dr Walter Auburn

1982–2003 Theo Schoon

1984 Barry Perkins

1985 Daphne Carruthers

1985–1986 Alan Gibbs and Jenny Gibbs

1987 McCahon Family

1987 Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery

1990 Elise Mourant Bequest

1991 Pat and Gil Hanly

1993 Ilene and Laurence Dakin Bequest

1996 Graeme Maunsell Trust

1997 Chartwell Trust

1998 Thanksgiving Foundation

2000 Marti Friedlander

2000 Lyndsay Garland Trust

2002–2006 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

2008 Max Gimblett and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

2009 Julian and Josie Robertson

2012 Dame Jenny Gibbs

2014 Nan Corson and Chris Corson-Scott