Governor General, Lord Cobham, opened the first Art Gallery in Palmerston North in 1959.
This converted house, once on the corner of Grey and Carroll Street, served the region well until the mid 1970’s.
During the 1960’s directors especially James Mack bought contemporary New Zealand art to Palmerston North. Major works were purchased by the Society including Colin McCahan, Don Binney, Pat Hanley, Rita Angus, Todd Wollaston, Michael Smither, Michael Illingworth.
During the decade of the 1970’s the Manawatu Art Gallery with the Society had established a reputation as a significant New Zealand contemporary art collector and regional gallery.
In the 1970’s directors and the Society continued to collect and mount exhibitions of emerging New Zealand artists such as Don Driver, Philip Clairmont, Tony Fomison, and Robin White.
When the Carroll Street gallery began to no longer be fit for purpose, director Luit Beringa and the Society decided to pursue the idea of building a new modern gallery. Funds raised by the Society members covered a significant amount of the final cost.
Ex railway land was purchased and architect, David Taylor and engineer, Don Irvine drew up plan for an Art Gallery to be built on this site.
In 1977 the Art Gallery was opened by former mayor, Sir Brian Elwood
Skillful directors, Margaret MacKean Taylor and Julie Catchpole among them, continued to forge friendships and alliances with contemporary artists who added to the collection with generous gifts of study materials and works on paper.
The acquisition of contemporary photography was an innovative move by Luit Beringa
Bequests to the Manawatu Art Society enabled the commissioning and acquisition of art and sculpture
A museum and Science Centre had already been established, each supported by its own society, and 1994 the Manawatu Art Gallery joined these two to form the institution of Te Manawa Museums Trust as it is today. Funding from PNCC is administered by the Te Manawa Museums Trust Board.
In 2008 a comprehensive process to determine which art works belonged to the city and which belonged to the Art Society was completed. The Te Manawa Museums Trust and the Te Manawa Art Society Inc. adopted these findings under a deed signed off in 2008.
In 2015 Te Manawa Art Society assigned the legal title of all the art works in its collection to the Te Manawa Art Society Holding Trust.
Under a contractual arrangement, Te Manawa Museums Trust now maintain and care for the Art Society Collection and has full use of the art works for exhibition purposes.
In 2021, the Art Society collection became known as the Manawatu Art Collection.
* Read more about the history of the Manawatu Art Collection in ‘Collectively Speaking – Te Manawa Art Society – the first 50 years’. Available from Art Gallery or by emailing [email protected]