Hundertwasser in New Zealand

Friedensreich Hundertwasser photo: Gerhard Krömer

Most art lovers will already know of Hundertwasser (1928-2000), an Austrian artist who lived in Vienna for many years of his life, and many will have visited the Hundertwasser House and museum opened in Vienna in the 1980s. But fewer will know of his link to New Zealand. In 1973 he travelled to New Zealand for the first time at the invitation of the Auckland City Art Gallery, where Hertha Dabbert had organised a travelling exhibition of his works. He visited the Bay of Islands during this time, and was so affected by the area that he returned a few years later and bought a farm. An impassioned environmentalist, he lived simply, off the grid if he could, returning from trips abroad, planting thousands of trees, establishing solar systems, and recycling as much material as he was able.

From the current exhibition

Hundertwasser contributed greatly to New Zealand conservation, being given citations for his efforts in highlighting the importance of environmental conservation through his artwork, and the way he lived his life. Throughout the seventies and eighties, he sailed his ship Regtentag across the Atlantic, the Caribbean, through Panama, and returned to New Zealand after visiting Tahiti, where he continued with his art and conservation work. He also wrote for Ao Tea Roa, a book which reflected on his life in the Bay of Islands.

Through the 1980s he worked prodigiously. There was the opening of The Hundertwasser House in Vienna; the founding of a committee to save the old KawaKawa Post Office, designing the Koru flag for New Zealand, writing the manifesto A Flag of Our Own... he also designed the most marvellous public toilets for Kawakawa, completed in 1990. And, I can assure you, they are fabulous and a must to see/use! But let me bring you back to our latest of his buildings, the marvellous Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangerei. The centre was opened on February 23 2022, after years of debate about whether Hundertwasser’s plans should ever come to fruition.

The entrance to the Hundertwasser Art Centre. Photo K.Chamberlain

I’ll show you a few images of the marvellous design and tiling of the exterior. It is worth a walk up the spiral stairs to take a look from under the golden dome.

The roof-top garden is also a must to walk around. Hundertwasser believed in using rooftops for planting, whether grasses or other foliage, to enhance or provide growing spaces for apartment buildings for example, and as insulation.

A close-up of the tiling. Photo K.Chamberlain
At entrance to art centre. Photo K.Chamberlain.
A close-up of the beautiful wooden Māori carving at the entrance. Photo K.Chamberlain

Inside you will find the equally marvellous Wairau Māori Art Gallery, which showcases contemporary Māori art. It is a long-needed and desired place for exhibiting Māori art, and housed here within the Hundertwasser Art Centre it has found the perfect home.

The rest of the Art Centre is taken up with Hundertwasser – with displays of his art, designs, sketchbooks, biography, and photographs cataloguing his life. The art exhibits are changed every so often, replaced by other works from the extensive collection of his art housed at the Hundtertwasser Non-Profit Foundation Vienna.

Please take a look at the links embedded above, if you wish to learn more about this intriguing man and artist. I finish with a link to Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s outstanding one-man exhibitions’ list

4 thoughts on “Hundertwasser in New Zealand

  1. I’ve recently visited the Hundertwasser Museum and it’s wonderful. I particularly enjoyed watching the film about the artist.


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