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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The art societies have played a vital part in fostering art in New Zealand. They are self-supporting institutions drawing income mainly from membership subscriptions, subcribing members usually paying approximately twice as much as artist members, who are elected on attaining a required standard. At least one exhibition of local and other New Zealand art is held annually, sales being encouraged by art unions.

Where the art society owns its own gallery, a programme of one-man shows and loan exhibitions is normally undertaken, and lectures, demonstrations, and criticism are conducted. Only in the larger societies is there any paid staff and this is usually confined to secretarial service, frequently part time. All other activities are undertaken by voluntary helpers. An elected president, secretary, treasurer, and council of from 10 to 12 members constitute the typical administrative body.

The following societies are members of the Association:

  • Northland Society of Arts.

  • North Shore Society of Potters.

  • Auckland Society of Arts.

  • Waikato Society of Arts Inc.

  • Matamata Art Society.

  • Tauranga Society of Arts.

  • Rotorua Society of Arts.

  • Gisborne Art Society.

  • North Taranaki Arts Society.

  • Stratford Art Society.

  • Hawera Art Club.

  • New Zealand Art Teachers' Association.

  • Architectural Centre.

  • Hutt Art Society.

  • Wellington Potters Assn. Inc.

  • New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

  • Wellington Art Club.

  • New Zealand Institute of Architects.

  • Nelson Suter Art Society.

  • Marlborough Art Society.

  • Canterbury Society of Arts.

  • South Canterbury Art Society.

The Association of New Zealand Art Societies was formed in 1930 to help the societies to coordinate their activities and to cooperate on all matters of common interest. In spite of these worthy aims, it was not easy to formulate a policy that would ensure coordination for the member societies without interference. One scheme in particular caused trouble in the early years of the Association. A group of paintings representative of New Zealand art generally, was sent on rotation to the exhibitions of the member societies. The idea was excellent but an unfortunate stipulation that all the works in the “rota” must be hung, deprived the Societies of the right to select their own exhibitions. This led to the withdrawal of the New Zealand Academy and other art societies. The rota scheme was eventually abandoned and the constitution has been modified from time to time to remove objectionable features and to ensure the smooth running of the Association. The Association has maintained a lively interest in all aspects of art in New Zealand, and is probably more firmly established today than ever before.

It would be difficult to find in New Zealand any city or township without an art society or art club, a sketch club, or an art group of some kind. It would be impossible to list them all, and the following notes refer to the more important or to typical art societies.


Stewart Bell Maclennan, A.R.C.A.(LOND.), Director, National Art Gallery, Wellington.