The Prospect Collection


In 1978 two people interested in the arts met in Auckland. One was Grahame Reeves, a merchant banker who was especially interested in painting and believed that we should collect the art of our time, and, perhaps more importantly, the art of our own place, New Zealand. The other was a man who has worked for a long time towards the establishment of contemporary New Zealand painting, a man whose considerable contribution to the arts in this country has been made over a number of years: Peter Webb. After some discussion, Reeves approached Warwick Brown with an imaginative proposal. Warwick Brown is an Auckland lawyer who has had a long standing interest in collecting contemporary art. Not only did Brown approve of the idea but he came up with a dozen or so prospective members.

PHILIP CLAIRMONT Three Windows 1976
oil on board 1070 x 1350 mm.

In July 1979 the Prospect Collection was formed and incorporated. Some twenty-two paid an initial five hundred dollars and agreed to contribute two hundred and fifty dollars annually. Each year a small purchasing committee is appointed and purchases are made.

Normally the works hang in the members' houses and are changed twice a year: so this is the first time that they have been able to evaluate the Prospect Collection as a whole. What they know, have known, perhaps intimately, as a painting on their wall now has to fit in with many others.

ROSS RITCHIE Thought 1964
oil on board, 1200 x 1200 mm

Does this perhaps points to a weakness in the collection - the work of too many hands? That is, of course, if we are looking for a. weakness: for there is much to commend this concept and this collection. The best is very fine indeed: a Ross Ritchie of 1964, McCahon's Visible Mysteries (1968), Tony Fomison's Indian Head (1972), Gordon Walters's Koru Series (1979), Ian Scott's Lattice Series (1979), a Max Gimblett Acrylic (1981) and Robert McLeod's Emerald and Black (1981).

Yet it is evident that the selection panel is aware that the Prospect Collection is more than just a means of supplying good interior decoration. Already developments in the work of some artists can be traced. An early Ian Scott, Nine Happy Kauris (1968) contrasts with the artist's later Lattice works. The same can be said of Robert Ellis's Motorways Series (1970) and Horapiko (1980). Other artists such as Mrkusich, Driver, Hanly, Clairmont, Ian McMillan, Jeffery Harris are all, at present, represented by at least two works.

oil on canvas

The exhibition of thirty-six paintings from the Prospect Collection looked well in the Centre Gallery of the Hamilton Arts Centre - a new art complex in the old Hamilton Hotel building. Excellent catalogue notes by Warwick Brown gave a brief explanation of the artist and of individual works, and offered what amounted to a useful guided tour of the collection.

Should we expect paintings which have mainly been selected for domestic settings to combine into a compact collection? Perhaps in five years time another exhibition might be arranged which will provide a positive answer to this question. In the meantime this fine collection of New Zealand paintings will continue to enrich the living of those directly involved and will, one can only hope, due to its concept of sharing, inspire other similar groups to be formed. In the meantime we should thank all members of the Prospect Collection for sharing their vision and delights.

IAN McMILLAN An Early Morning Garden 1976
tempera on board, 1210 x 910 mm.

Originally published in Art New Zealand 27 Winter 1983