The Fletcher Trust Collection was founded sixty years ago, in 1962, as the corporate art collection for Fletcher Holdings. Today, it is one of the country’s most prestigious private art collections. Placing an emphasis on painting, it aims to celebrate the richness of Aotearoa artmaking. Works both new and old continue to be added.
The collection is perhaps best known for its landscapes and works of formal abstraction, but portraits and other figure-based pictures form a lively core, exuding countless stories. Gathered Voices showcases some especially fine examples drawn from a range of time periods and reflecting a range of perspectives.
A few works express perspectives that are misguided, even offensive. Yet they retain value, as embodiments of ancestors, or as markers of a complex past with lasting effects. The earliest pieces by date are ‘colonial’ portraits. But there are works that speak to older pūrākau and deeper histories, enfolding tūpuna or atua whose roots long precede the arrival of tauiwi in Aotearoa.
The compact nature of this exhibition means that some collection ‘favourites’ have been left out. The select pieces on display express important themes running through many of the figure-based works in the Fletcher Trust Collection: family, place, culture, identity, ethics.
The arrangement of pictures is neither linear nor strictly thematic. Visitors are invited to consider different points of connection, to construct their own narratives. When works are gathered together, in a show or in an assembly like the Fletcher Trust Collection, new conversations emerge. Meanings develop that are often unexpected and unexpectedly rewarding.
About Francis McWhannell
Francis McWhannell is a writer, gallerist, and exhibition-maker. He holds a Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau. Since October 2019, he has been curator of the Fletcher Trust Collection, a major private collection of Aotearoa art. In February 2022, he and Jade Townsend opened Season, a commercial gallery based in the centre of Tāmaki Makaurau. He has written essays for exhibitions at public and commercial galleries, and has contributed to a range of arts and culture magazines and websites, including Art Collector (Australia), Art News Aotearoa, The Spinoff, and the Pantograph Punch.