The Art Gallery was built for the 1925 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition held in Dunedin.
Great Exhibitions and World Fairs were an outstandingly important international phenomenon of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. For New Zealand they were one of the main ways that we, as an emerging nation, could position ourselves internationally. Over seventy exhibitions were held internationally up to World War I.
The complexes built for these exhibitions throughout the world were extraordinary in their scale, even more so because they were designed to be temporary. Their temporary nature has meant that there are few surviving structures in situ internationally - there are only eight worldwide dating from the period 1851-1915. This makes the 1925 Gallery an outstandingly important international survivor of the exhibition phenomenon, and very obviously part of an international story.
The former Art Gallery has architectural significance not only as a rare example of a building built for the 1925 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, but also as an element in the work of architect Edmund Anscombe. Anscombe was a lifelong enthusiast of international exhibitions, and his work on both the 1925 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, and the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition (1939-1940) made an outstanding contribution to these significant cultural events on the world scene. The original gallery layout and detailing is still evident and an special element in the significance of the building.
Six international exhibitions were held in New Zealand in the period 1865-1925. These exhibitions were major social and cultural events for New Zealand. On a cultural level the exhibitions represented the way in which New Zealand positioned itself in a developing global economy, and the way the country's identity developed internationally. The history of the exhibitions is a history of New Zealand's identity distilled into a series of outstandingly significant social events. On a social and community level, the 1925 exhibition, for which this building was constructed, is the largest public event in New Zealand's history (with over three million tickets sold).
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The Gallery is outstandingly important as the only surviving building in situ from any of the six great international exhibitions held in New Zealand. These exhibitions were part of the worldwide cultural exhibition phenomenon of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which expressed the ethos of the age, and are extremely important expressions of the dominant cultural values of the period. These exhibitions are an important expression of New Zealand's developing view of itself as both part of the British Empire and as a nation of the South Pacific. The Gallery is a permanent reminder of the importance of exhibitions, and the astounding architecture and organization that they represented.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The former Art Gallery's association with the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in 1925 makes it outstandingly important on a national, if not international context. The six exhibitions held in New Zealand were part of the world of the world wide phenomenon, and the survival of this building is remarkable.
On a local and national level the building is additionally significant because of its association with architect Edmund Anscombe, and also with the prominent Sargood family, whose generosity allowed the purchase of the building for the City.
Anscombe was the originator of the idea to hold the exhibition in Dunedin, and was appointed official architect in June 1924. He was also designed the complex for the 1939-1940 New Zealand Centennial Exhibition. His designs for both the 1925 and 1939-1940 exhibitions are significant in the history of exhibitions in this country, and stand him firmly within an international history of exhibitions.
Percy Sargood (1865-1940) was the son of Australian merchant Frederick Sargood, who by 1890 had one of the largest concerns in Australasia. Percy Sargood moved to Dunedin in 1891 to take charge of the Dunedin and Christchurch branches, and Sargood was governing director from 1907 till his death. With wife Lucy (Ormond) he developed a large personal art collection. Their major contribution to the art world was the donation of £4,000 to enable the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Dunedin City Council to relocate the gallery to the Logan Park building, which they considered a memorial to their son killed in World War I.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The gallery has had a long association (1925-1997) with the people of Dunedin as a community venue and exhibition space. The recent development proposals have placed it as a focus of community discussion as to its future use, demonstrating that it still holds a place in the minds of Dunedin's public.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
Anscombe designed and supervised the layout and construction of all seven of the exhibition pavilions, plus the grounds. He had previous experience with exhibitions, having worked at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Anscombe's standardised design of exhibition components, and his mass production methods employed were clearly an example of the merits of modern industrial methods. The methods were admired by a representative of the American government sent to study standardisation in building who was "astounded at the magnitude of the Dunedin's Exhibition undertaking."
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
The purchase of the gallery, following the 1925 exhibition, was funded by the Sargood family. They considered it a memorial to their son Cedric killed in World War One. The building can be considered to have commemorative value in this way.
The former gallery could also be considered as having symbolic value as a still surviving physical representation of the great exhibition movement. As the only in situ building in the country this relationship has the capacity to tell the exhibition story in a way no other building can.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places
NZHPT staff have been unable to identify any other buildings from any of the exhibitions 1865-1925 in the country which have survived in situ.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The Gallery is part of the wider landscape of Logan Park. Logan Park was reclaimed for the 1925 exhibition, and this building links to the history of that era. Logan Park Drive, with its associated plantings, as the main approach to the gallery is a reference to the main axis of the exhibition. In addition its relationship with architect Anscombe's 1929-1930 grandstand is also an important element in the context of the gallery.
Brick and Concrete.
The former Exhibition Gallery was built as the art gallery for the 1925 New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition in Dunedin. The building appears to be the only surviving in situ exhibition building from any of the exhibitions held in New Zealand, and is also a significant survivor in the international history of exhibitions.
Great Exhibitions and World Fairs
Great Exhibitions and World Fairs were an international phenomenon of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They saw:
the growth and spread of benefits of industrialisation in the form of technological advancements and social progress, the transmission of ideas and cultural values around the world, and the rapid development of an extensive international economy. The exhibitions themselves brought people and ideas together on a grand scale, in diverse locations around the world, and greatly enhanced international social and economic links. They provided a mechanism for the world-wide exchange of goods, technology, ideas, culture and values, and heralded a new era of trading networks and the modern international economy.
They were a way for new nations, even geographically remote ones such as New Zealand, to position them in a developing global economy.
Most exhibition buildings and sites were designed to be temporary, and there are, therefore, relatively few structures remaining; few retain the authenticity of original location and condition.
Many of the Exhibitions had galleries to display fine arts, and only six such galleries (out of a total of eight structures) from the period 1850-1915 have survived in situ internationally, in part perhaps because display of borrowed art collections, leant for the exhibition, imposed lending conditions requiring a permanent building.
There were six Great Exhibitions in New Zealand in the period 1865-1940. They were major events in which New Zealand sought to position itself in the wider international community. They were some of the biggest public events this country has ever seen:
1865 Dunedin, New Zealand Exhibition
1885 Wellington, New Zealand Industrial Exhibition
1889 Dunedin, New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition
1906 Christchurch, International Exhibition
1925 Dunedin, New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition
1940 Wellington, New Zealand Centennial Exhibition
The World Fairs and Exhibitions post World War I were affected by the changing international economy and trade patterns. This resulted in the later disruption and decline in the World Fair movement.
The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition (Dunedin, 1925)
The idea of the exhibition came from locals who had traveled overseas, visited such events, and returned full of enthusiasm. The history of Logan Park records that in 1922 James Brown returned from overseas with the idea of promoting New Zealand's attractions and resources, and in conversation with a Mr Mackinnon of the Stock Exchange Tea Rooms, came up with the idea of a big exhibition. At this time the idea was not taken up because of financial concerns. In 1923 architect Edmund Anscombe returned from overseas with a similar suggestion, and after some canvassing a public meeting was held and an advisory committee set up.
The 1925 New Zealand and South Seas in Dunedin was staged at what is now Logan Park. The site had previously been Lake Logan, and had caused headaches because of the silting and stagnation of the shallow tidal flats. One history notes that a "magic idea dramatically changed the whole story" - an exhibition on a grand scale, outdoing the previous exhibitions in the city. When the exhibition was mooted in February 1923 (and a resolution in favour passed) the lake was only partially reclaimed; the reclamation was pushed ahead at speed following the decision to use the site. A new highway (Anzac Avenue) was built from the railway station to the exhibition grounds.
The first sod of the exhibition construction was turned on 28 June, 1924. On 13 October Lord Jellicoe set in position a marble tablet describing the coming exhibitions as "commemorating the dauntless courage of our pioneer men and women, typifying the resources of our Dominion, and symbolizing the world's progress to 1925." Construction was completed on 24 July, 1925. The exhibition opened by Governor-General Sir Charles Fergusson on 17 November, 1925. The exhibition was a huge success: the total attendance was 3,200,498, and on the last day 83,935 people thronged the grounds. In its "scope, scale, and quality" it was the greatest demonstration of its kind. The benefit to Dunedin in business, advertisement, goodwill and confidence was inestimable, but some of the more tangible results were the building of a new Town Hall, complete with organ and grand piano, made possible by the profits to the city because of the exhibition.
Visitors entered the exhibition on Union Street, with ornamental lawns leading down to the Grand Court towards a Bandstand and domed Festival Hall. On the right side were the British Pavilion, the Otago Court, Provincial Court, General Exhibits and Art Gallery. Arranged around the northern edge of the side was the Amusement Avenue and Fun Factor, behind the Art Gallery was a grandstand (not the current structure completed in 1930) and sports ground where massed displays of marching and athletics were held.
Architectural style and style of the 1925 exhibition was typical of its predecessors, although on a more modest scale than the vast undertakings seen in large international centres - "the architectural iconography of nineteenth century exhibitions are a combination of domes, to mark the facility far and wide in an urban context; an integrated axial garden layout to provide a palatial context for the exhibition hall; repeated giant entry portals to symbolise a welcome to the world community; and a viewing platform to allow visitors to survey the progress of their city." The plans provided for a series of seven pavilions grouped on two sides of a Grand Court, and converging by colonnaded passages towards a Festival Hall surmounted by a magnificent dome. These buildings were all connected by covered ways.
These exhibitions were the largest gatherings of people of all time, and they ranked amongst the most important events held in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such exhibitions in emerging nations were "a celebratory and symbolic event" - asserting wealth and culture and empire. Like the earlier Dunedin exhibitions the 1925 exhibition was intended to promote closer relations with Australia and the Pacific Islands. The business of the exhibitions was "not simply to sell things but to symbolise, and disseminate, the ruling ideals of an industrial age."
The Exhibition Buildings and the Exhibition Art Gallery
The Gallery built for the 1925-26 New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition was designed by prominent Dunedin architect Edmund Anscombe (1874-1948). Anscombe was the originator of the idea to hold the exhibition in Dunedin, and was appointed official architect to the Exhibition committee in June 1924. Anscombe designed and supervised the lay out and construction of all seven of the exhibition pavilions, plus the grounds. He had previous experience with exhibitions, having worked at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and having collected considerable reference material on the topic.
Anscombe's standardised design of exhibition components, and his mass production methods employed were clearly an example of the merits of modern industrial methods, with Anscombe describing them "an outstanding example of Henry Ford's methods of mass production as applied to a building programme." The methods were admired by a representative of the American government sent to study standardisation in building who was "astounded at the magnitude of the Dunedin's Exhibition undertaking." He was "much impressed" with the methods, which allowed for quick construction but still managed to avoid uniformity sometimes associated with standard methods.
Messrs Fletcher and Love constructed six of the exhibition buildings in kitset form, typically with timber frames, asbestos cladding, malthoid roofing with rear walls clad in corrugated iron. These kitset buildings were designed to be very cheaply constructed and demolished for sale of their materials, upon the completion of the exhibition.
The Art Gallery building was the only one of the exhibition buildings designed to remain as a permanent structure, in order to meet lender's requirements. It was built by Messrs George Lawrence and Sons, predominantly out of brick with decorative plaster pilasters and banding to the exterior, at a cost of £12,644, out of a total exhibition expenditure of approximately £254,000.
The building was symmetrically laid out with a large central exhibition hall from which two ambulatory circuits via the ten smaller galleries on either side of it were accessed. Each gallery was linked to its neighbour via decorative plaster archways.
Natural lighting to the galleries was through skylights, which directed light down onto reflective baffles mounted under them, which spilled light down the walls, leaving the centres of the galleries in comparative darkness. At the time of its opening the design of the building received high praise from the then President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Samuel Hurst Seager, and a specialist on gallery lighting, who considered it to be:
one of the best lighted galleries I have seen anywhere, and I have traveled all over the British Isles and the Continent for the special purpose of studying the lighting effect in their galleries.
The quality of the layout of the interior was also admired - "the very excellent arrangement of the building into eleven small galleries, designed not only to give visitors easy access from room to room, but also to permit certain works to be placed in positions that enabled one to get those long, distant views so desirable for some pictures."
The art displayed for the exhibition was described as "representative" and by living artists only. Collections were received from Britain, France, America, Australia and New Zealand, with 931 pictures, and 46 sculptures. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery purchased works from and American and British collections, but in general sales were down from the 1906 New Zealand International Exhibition held in Christchurch; northern centres in New Zealand bought little and the Australian galleries did not send a buyer.
The Dunedin City Council had intended to lease the land on which the Art Gallery stood to the University of Otago following the exhibition. There were debates about its future in the press following the closure of the exhibition. The conversion of the facility to a grandstand was costed, with Anscombe estimating that it would cost £4,800 compared with £7,000 for a new stand. Various sports bodies in the cities opposed the use of the building as a gallery, wishing rather that it be used for dressing rooms and the like. The question of acquiring the Art Gallery building from the 1925/25 Exhibition as a new home for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery was a controversial issue for the Council in 1926. The building had been constructed in permanent materials - in contrast to the rest of the Exhibition complex - but this was simply to fulfill the requirements of lenders of the valuable artworks that were displayed there. The same distinction had applied to the Art Gallery part of the 1889/90 Dunedin exhibition complex.
Upon the closure of the exhibition the securing of the Art Gallery building by the Dunedin Art Gallery Society and the Dunedin City Council for the housing of the civic art collection was assisted by a significant donation by Percy and Lucy Sargood (later Sir and Lady Sargood). In making this gift the Sargoods' intention was that the gallery be the focus of a major public recreation area, and also a memorial to their only son Cedric, who was killed at Gallipoli. The sum involved was £4,000. The DPAG was keen (with a dissenting minority) because they had bought a heap of the paintings from the Exhibition display and had inadequate room to display them at their premises on Cumberland Street (the present OSM Hudson Gallery and Hall of History). They were also experiencing difficulties with that site, with a badly leaking roof and distraction from the noise and dirt of the adjacent railway yards.
The Sargood offer was considered at a Council meeting on 14 July and, in the absence of the Mayor and Cr Douglas (major supporters of the idea) the proposal was rejected by six votes to five. This is reported in detail in the Otago Witness 20 July 1926 p17. A subsequent meeting of the Art Gallery Society decided to make another approach to the Council to reconsider this. The next meeting of the Council did reconsider the idea and, with the Mayor and Cr Douglas leading the charge, overturned the previous rejection by seven votes to six.
The Sargoods were important figures in the New Zealand art scene. In 1930 Percy Sargood founded the Empire Art Loan Collections Society. The aim of the society was to enable the circulation of major works from British galleries, touring nine exhibitions prior to 1940 which toured the Commonwealth.
In 1927 the Dunedin Art Gallery moved out its Cumberland Street building into the Logan Park Exhibition Building.
A permanent result of the Exhibition was the large new sports ground. The history of Logan Park records that by 1930 there were five rugby grounds, two soccer pitches plus three hockey grounds for men and another three for women. Nine cricket pitches were laid, with four for schoolboy cricket. The Otago Lawn Tennis Association located its tennis headquarters there, and fourteen courts were established; there was also a croquet lawn.
The grandstand from the exhibition, which stood immediately behind the gallery, was disassembled and re-erected at the northern end of Logan Park. The stand seated was 300 feet in length and seated 3,300 people. The structure burnt down in the 1940s.
Aside from the removal of the two south east end gallery spaces, most of these original details of the Art Gallery building are still intact, and those which are missing or covered over could be readily reinstated.
An addition in 1951 was modeled on the original, and again endowed by Lucy Sargood. There was a further two-storey addition built in stages from 1968, housing the new conservation and storage block. A new art education block was constructed in the mid-1970s. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery vacated the building for a new site in central Dunedin in 1997. The building was further truncated in 2000-2001, with two gallery spaces at south-east demolished. The northern extension of the gallery building provides offices ofr the New Zealand Academy of Sport (South Island Branch) and Sports Medicine New Zealand.
In 2005 the building is occupied in part by the New Zealand Academy of Sport as a gym and training venue. In converting it to this use the original gallery spaces have been retained.
19th June 2006
Report Written By
Edmund Anscombe, The Inside History of the New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition Dunedin 1925-1926, Edmund Anscombe, [London], 1928
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Greg Bowron, 'Anscombe, Edmund 1874-1948', Volume 4 (1921-1940), Wellington, 1998, pp.16-17; updated 7 July 2005 URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz
John Heslop (ed), The History of Logan Park: The Evolution of a sporting complex 
Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin
New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition, 1925-1926, ARC-0049; New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition 1925-1926, Specimen album relating to the New Zealand and South Seas international exhibition held in Dunedin, MS-2251/001
K C McDonald, City of Dunedin: A Century of Civic Enterprise, Dunedin City Corporation, Dunedin, 1965
Museum Victoria http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/
Nomination of Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne by the Government of Australia for Inscription on the World Heritage List. http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/reb/world.asp
Official Record of the New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition, Dunedin 1925-1926. G.E. Thompson, Issued by the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition Company Ltd, Coulls Somerville Wilkie Ltd, Dunedin
UNESCO World Heritage Committee
Royal Exhibition Building Australia No.1131, p.20. http://whc.unesco.org/archive/advisory_body_evaluation/1131.pdf
A fully referenced copy of this report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Office