5 May 2024

With City Gallery closing for two years, what's next for Wellington?

From Culture 101, 12:30 pm on 5 May 2024

The closure of the City Gallery building won't stop it from bringing art to the capital, its boss says.

Diana Marsh is the chief executive of Experience Wellington, which oversees the gallery along with five other Wellington museums and cultural institutions.

She told Culture 101 host Mark Amery that City Gallery would continue to present and celebrate art in Pōneke while it was closed for two years from 30 June.

So far, two offsite exhibitions had been announced, which were due to be shown over the remainder of 2024. 

Yayoi Kusama's Dots for Love and Peace covers City Gallery Wellington in 2009

Yayoi Kusama's Dots for Love and Peace covers City Gallery Wellington in 2009 Photo: supplied

Generation X: 50 Artworks from the Chartwell Collection would be hosted by Te Papa from 27 July to 20 October.

Derek Jarman: Delphinium Days, by United Kingdom artist and gay rights activist Derek Jarman, would be held at The Dowse from 28 September to 26 January.

"Our arts whānau have been amazing in supporting us," Marsh said.

"Wellington is really vibrant in terms of the way people support each other and work with each other, and there's lots happening."

Diana Marsh

Diana Marsh, Chief Executive of Experience Wellington Photo: supplied

Marsh said Experience Wellington was exploring its options for housing other exhibitions, both inside and outside galleries.

However, its finances were stretched, meaning there would be limits to what it could achieve.

The closure will coincide with the closing of the main accessway to Te Ngākau Civic Square until February 2025, while demolition work is completed on a former civic administration building. 

Marsh said a crane would be operating in the square as part of that work, hampering access to the gallery, and there were questions around the possible impact of the demolition.

"We don't know what the works would have done to the paintings."

Drill testing in the vicinity had been "impossibly noisy", she said, leaving the gallery with no option but to close.

Following the demolition, the gallery will remain shut for a further year while it undergoes overdue refitting and alterations, mainly to the lift.

"That lift is crucial because it brings in the art."

The building will reopen mid-2026, after Te Matapihi, the new city library, opens.

However, questions remain on the impact of a potential replacement of the city-to-sea bridge and continued work on the town hall as a national music centre, due to reopen 2027. 


Diana Marsh was appointed CEO in March and was previously Chief Executive of SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music for more than eight years, following a position as General Manager of Orchestra Wellington.