Born in Palmerston North in 1948, Celia Dunlop grew up in a household surrounded by interesting paintings and objects. Through this early exposure, Celia developed a great appreciation for art that eventually burgeoned into an innate joy of collecting, which was to sustain her throughout her life.
By the time she passed away in 2008, Celia had amassed over 250 artworks by more than 100 artists. They hung on the walls, perched on tabletops, shelves, tucked away in cupboards, stacked floor-to-ceiling in her home above Evans Bay in Wellington. Life was lived with and alongside these objects; with her collection witness to the changing seasons, the activities of everyday family life, and those defining moments of celebration, loss, and love.
Celia was a collector on a budget. Most purchases were made for less than $5000, with those more expensive works paid off over months or even years. Each work that entered the collection—every painting, photograph, sculpture, ceramic vase, glass bowl, numerous pieces of jewellery—represented hours of attentive looking, careful consideration, and lengthy conversations with artists, gallerists, and friends.
She was an ardent supporter of young and emerging practitioners and welcomed challenging conversations and ideas around art, culture, and politics. She was an important member of the local arts community, always willing to loan works from her collection for exhibitions and to share her remarkable knowledge and passion with others.
For Celia Dunlop, collecting was a way of being. It was a deeply personal, rewarding, and absorbing endeavour. Each individual object was a vessel for numerous connections and memories, intertwined with her sense of self and the way she understood and engaged with the world.