It’s an art-buff’s dream come true: free entry to a leading contemporary art gallery in the morning, followed by an exquisite luncheon surrounded by wall-to wall art, and a pretty stroll through a leafy park. Here’s how to make it happen!
Taranaki Savings Bank Wallace Arts Centre
Set in peaceful Monte Cecilia Park in Hillsborough, Auckland, the Taranaki Savings Bank Wallace Arts Centre is home to our most illustrious contemporary art collection. It hides itself within the grand, historic Pah Homestead, and is the brain child of well-known art collector Sir James Wallace. The homestead itself was built in the late 1870s by Auckland businessman James Williamson. At the time, it was the largest builiding in the Auckland region, and today it is worth a visit even if you don’t intend looking at the art inside. Most visitors to the homestead miss one of its most intriguing features: the beautiful, gabled, brick stables on the right of the driveway on the approach to the gallery. Once used to house horses, coaches and animal-drawn farm machinery, it is now leased out as private apartments.
Art-lovers usually head first to the homestead’s front gardens which double as an outdoor sculpture arena. While many pieces in the garden, such as the beautiful, brightly coloured ceramic flowers leaning in from a natural shrubbery, are permanent features, other sculptures make a temporary appearance. The changing nature of the collection means you can visit again and again for a different experience each time.
Inside the Pah Homestead, large galleries on ground and first floors are filled with contemporary art spanning several decades (be sure not to miss the long gallery which is hidden away past the entrance to the attached café). The Arts Centre hosts regular exhibitions, and one of the most interesting of these features the work of finalists in the annual Wallace Arts Awards. While you’re gazing at the art, don’t forget to take in the wood panelling, sweeping staircase and fine marble fireplaces in the building itself. Check out what’s coming up at The Pah by visiting the Centre’s website.
Pah Homestead Café
With entry to the Arts Centre being a donation-only affair, you can afford to indulge in lunch at the Pah Homestead Café located within the art gallery. As well as enjoying delicious fresh food (which is always seasonal), diners can choose to be seated at tables on the wide veranda of the homestead, or indoors where they are surrounded by art from the Wallace Arts Centre’s own collection. It’s a wall-to-wall art dining experience like no other. As with the sculpture garden, the café art changes from time to time so no two visits are the same.
When you’re all done dining, walk off lunch with a stroll round Monte Cecilia Park. The homestead looks out over this gracious swathe of green space which is dotted with specimen trees and a handful of citrus bushes – survivors from the mansion’s original orchard. Walk right down to swale at the base of the hill on which the homestead sits, and look back to gain an appreciation of this astonishing piece of architecture. Seats are dotted along the several trails leading through the park so don’t be in a hurry to leave.