Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery ready for strengthening and restoration
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Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery ready for strengthening and restoration

Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery ready for strengthening and restoration

Curator Jennifer Taylor Moore says the Sarjeant Gallery’s unique flooring will be carefully retained. Photo/Stuart Munro.

By: Liz Wylie
Liz Wylie is a reporter for the Wanganui Chronicle

Click here to be taken on a virtual tour as Sarjeant Gallery Curator of Collections, Jennifer Taylor Moore, takes the Chronicle on a guided walk through the Queen’s Park Category 1 heritage building.

Jennifer Taylor Moore stands on the circular pattern of matai flooring in the centre of the Sarjeant Gallery.

The curator of collections says the flooring panels will be carefully taken up, numbered and stored during the strengthening and restoration process. “Everything will look exactly the same but the building will be strong and safe,” she says.

The Class A, category 1 heritage building in Whanganui’s Queens Park has been closed since March 2014 and the temporary Sarjeant on the Quay Gallery opened a few weeks later. “Cracks started to appear in the walls and small chunks of mortar fell from the ceiling beams,” says Taylor Moore.

Engineers who inspected the building said there had been “water ingress” which had led to the cracking.

Over 5500 artworks were moved from the 98-year-old gallery and the beauty of the empty building is fully exposed.

“The natural lighting is wonderful,” says Taylor Moore. “But it’s not good for the artworks. “It will be retained but UV filters will be installed to protect the collection.”

A lighter section of wall at the turn of the stairway marks the space where the Sarjeant Gallery’s largest painting used to hang. The Flight into Egypt by Frederick Goodall, was transported to Auckland Art Gallery for restoration treatment in January 2017. “It will be safely stored at Auckland Art Gallery until The Sarjeant restoration is complete.” Auckland Art Gallery conservator Ingrid Ford will be in Whanganui to give an illustrated talk about the restoration of The Flight into Egypton April 10.

The Sarjeant Gallery Trust have been fundraising for the restoration and redevelopment of the gallery and received good news last year when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed a $10 million contribution from the Government.

“The Sarjeant Gallery is going to be a very beautiful building once again as well as a strong drawcard for Whanganui,” said Sarjeant Gallery director Greg Anderson. “The redevelopment project was green lit just before Christmas and is now in what’s called a discovery phase and shortly we expect to have a high-level construction progress timeline. We’re now at a very exciting stage”

The project will start in 2019 and it is expected that the restored gallery and brand-new annex will open in 2021.

This article first appeared in the Wanganui Chronicle on 29 March, 2018