John McKinnon [right] has a peek at progress on the new MAHARA project along with, from left, Field Collection trustees Simon Brown & Kay Brown and Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly, 8 April 2022

The family of noted art historian and writer, the late Avenal McKinnon, has made a substantial contribution to the Mahara Gallery Redevelopment Project in recognition of her interest in the works of Frances Hodgkins and of her role in preserving the Field Collection, which contains 24 Hodgkins works.

The contribution was announced at a function in Waikanae’s Mahara Place on Friday 8 April — Avenal McKinnon’s birthday.

Mahara Gallery Trust Board Chairman Gordon Shroff said the McKinnon family’s contribution to the Mahara project was another significant step forward in securing the funding needed to meet the Trust Board’s share of the project’s $6.5 million cost. 

“We are very grateful to the McKinnon family for their generosity, which not only advances our funding but also provides a lasting link with a gallery that was dear to Avenal’s heart and to which she contributed greatly,” said Gordon Shroff.

Avenal McKinnon is best known as a long-serving Director of the New Zealand Portrait Gallery, Te Pukena Whakaata. She also had a deep interest in the work of Frances Hodgkins and played a pivotal role in keeping the Field Collection intact.

“Avenal’s reputation, scholarship and advocacy had a significant influence on gaining recognition for the Field Collection at a national level,” said Shroff. “We will be forever in her debt and grateful that her name will always be associated with Mahara Gallery.”

The Mahara Gallery Trust Board has raised 95 per cent of its two-thirds share of the project cost. The other third is being met by Kāpiti Coast District Council, which has underwritten the project to enable construction to begin.

Construction started in November 2021 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the current year. 

The Field Collection, when housed at the new MAHARA, will contain the largest collection of Hodgkins’ work in public ownership outside Te Papa, Dunedin and Auckland art galleries.

The Collection was the catalyst for the redevelopment project. Because of the Hodgkins family’s close links with Kāpiti, the Field Collection Trust gifted the collection to Mahara Gallery on condition that the Gallery be upgraded to accepted museum standard.

“The project will provide Kāpiti with a purpose-built art gallery that will not only house and display the Field Collection, but also the work of local artists, selected taonga of local iwi and, occasionally, special touring exhibitions,” said Gordon Shroff.