Save the McDougall as our Museum of Historical Art






  The Robert McDougall Art Gallery in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, New Zealand.

The McDougall Art Gallery was gifted to the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1928 by industrialist Robert Ewing McDougall (1860-1942) for the purposes of displaying the city’s art collection which was established by gifts of paintings to the city by the Canterbury Society of Arts, the Jamieson family and other private donors when the gallery opened in 1932. It served as the city’s public art gallery for 70 years until it was closed in 2002 before the opening of the new Christchurch Art Gallery in 2003.

Why do we need to keep it as a Museum of Art?

· To ensure that the public and visitors see more of the art treasures hidden from view and largely only able to be accessed as photo images on line.

· To highlight that old art galleries internationally have been retained to enable the continued exhibition of permanent collections.

· To continue to recognise that the Robert McDougall Art Gallery is owned on behalf of the citizens of Christchurch by the Christchurch City Council but who in 2003 decided that in future it should be used by Canterbury Museum for the display of their collections of art and decorative arts and crafts and be incorporated into a proposed future Museum redevelopment project that would join the buildings together. Their first proposed such project in 2005 failed to be consented and has only now been replaced by a more extensive project with construction planned to commence in April 2023 and take five years to complete. In anticipation of this project, in October 2020, the Council decided to lease the gallery to the Museum for 50 years for their above purposes.


     The McDougall’s northern gallery taken c 1958

· To emphasise that the McDougall has been virtually unused now for 20 years despite being undamaged in the earthquakes. It is a category one heritage building and considered the country’s best neo classical art gallery with 13 intimate wall specific picture galleries designed in accordance with the exhibition principles of European art galleries of the early 20th century to display two dimensional art works of that period and before. As a consequence, most of the Museum’s 3 dimensional cultural objects are unsuitable for display in the McDougall’s gallery spaces.

· To acknowledge that the city’s collection of historical traditional art (as opposed to contemporary art) acquired prior to 1970, has grown to around 550 oil paintings and over 300 watercolours worth an estimated $ 35 M. They are held in permanent storage at the Christchurch Art Gallery ~ Te Puna o Waiwhetu but only a very small number of these works are now shown to the public as their emphasis is predominantly on the exhibition of contemporary art.

· To be aware that the Christchurch Art Gallery was only built to half the size required and simply does not have adequate wall space to display both the city’s historical collections and their exhibitions of contemporary art to full effect.

· To remember that when the Council leased the McDougall to Canterbury Museum in 2020 it dishonoured the terms of Robert McDougall’s gift of the gallery to the citizens of Christchurch. And it also, by its own admission, dishonoured its Heritage Strategy 2019 for its own heritage buildings which would have required the Council to maintain its future use in accordance with its past. Nothing like this has ever happened before in the city’s history. But they have now also dishonoured the terms of the gifts of all the donors of the city’s historical collection who gave their paintings on the understanding they would be displayed on a regular basis to the public which is no longer happening. ·        To appreciate that these were the largest gifts ever given to the city. These unprecedented injustices to Robert McDougall and all the donors of the historical collection must be addressed by the Christchurch City Council.                                              


 The McDougall’s sculpture court taken c 1958  

· To be reminded that when the McDougall finally re-opens in 2028, having been closed for 26 years, it will be attached to Canterbury Museum’s buildings and people will be able to visit both at the same time. It will be seismic strengthened and a new storage basement will be built under the gallery land. Having seen the city’s history displayed through the Museum’s various collections, when visitors enter the city’s beautiful neo classical art gallery, they will expect to see the city’s historical art collection – not more three dimensional museum objects or works of contemporary art or inferior works of art below art museum standard which dominate the museum’s picture collection. Attached to the Museum, by 2028, the case for the McDougall to become the city’s museum of historical art will become overwhelming. Run as such it implies that there could be a name change and it becomes known as the Robert McDougall Art Museum.  

This petition, therefore, is addressed to the Christchurch City Council and asks it to retain the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, when re-opened and attached to Canterbury Museum, as the city’s museum of historical art for the display of its historical  collections of international and New Zealand art and any other historical art works of a public art gallery standard available to be borrowed from other institutions and private collections.              

Timothy Seay Save the McDougall Campaign    Contact the author of the petition

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