Te Papa is closed until further notice. Te Papa Covid-19 coronavirus information
Kua aukati a Te Papa kia puta rā anō he pānui. He mōhiohio nā Te Papa mō Covid-19 huaketokarauna
Helen Hitchings’ vibrant dealer gallery was ground-breaking in its presentation of modern art and design in New Zealand.
In 1949, a glamorous trailblazer opened the first modern art-dealer gallery in New Zealand. Helen Hitchings (1920–2002) was just 28 when she began promoting future icons of New Zealand art and design including Rita Angus, Toss Woollaston, Colin McCahon, and Len Castle.
Hitchings created an informal, welcoming atmosphere in her Wellington gallery. She encouraged visitors – who had seldom seen modern art and design outside of magazines – to ‘look at and feel everything’.
Arthur Rex Dugard Fairburn, Curtain, circa 1950. Purchased 2015. Te Papa (GH017983).
In her gallery, Helen Hitchings wanted ‘to stimulate an awareness in a simple, practical way of the principles of good domestic design’. She spent a year searching for the country’s best modern works, such as the textiles, furniture, and art to your left.
She enlisted poet A R D Fairburn to supply hand block-printed fabrics. Inspired by Theo Schoon’s photographs of Maori rock drawings, Fairburn introduced a bright palette into the designs. Viennese-trained architect Ernst Plischke’s light, portable furniture encouraged flexible living. His harmonising of furnishings and architecture mirrored Hitchings’ integration of design and art.
Unknown, Interior of the Gallery of Helen Hitchings, 1949-1950, silver gelatin print. Te Papa (CA000124/001/0032).
Photo News Ltd (Wellington, N.Z.), Helen Hitchings with work by Margaret Garland, R.N. Field, Timaru Potteries to Hitchings design, First work of Leonard Castle, circa 1950. Te Papa (CA000124/001/0048).
The first Len Castle ceramic exhibited by Helen Hitchings is in the foreground of this photograph. Hitchings holds a jug she designed.
Hitchings supported local potters, but also designed her own functional pieces. She commissioned Timaru Potteries to produce ovenware that was both attractive and affordable.
Photo News Ltd, Helen Hitchings inspecting a self-portrait on display in her gallery, about 1950. Te Papa (CA000124/001/0060).
I’ve simply furnished an extremely large room, landing, and stairway with articles mainly designed and made for the project … the room has a yellow ceiling, white painted brick walls, two partition walls, of which one is dull blue and the other buff. It has grey doors, windows, and beams, and some terracotta shelving.
Helen Hitchings, 2YA Women’s Session interview, 1950
Douglas MacDiarmid, Papa cliff pool with bathers, Taihape, 1947. Purchased 1993 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds. Te Papa (1993-0037-7).
Sir Mountford Tosswill Woollaston, The red shed, Jackson’s orchard, Mahana, 1943/48. Gift of Mrs M A Hall-Kenney, 1968. Te Papa (1968-0011-1).
Stay in the loop about our wide range of events and exhibitions.
Follow our social media channels for a glimpse behind the scenes at Te Papa.
Friends enjoy benefits and discounts including invitations to previews and private viewings.
Find out how you can support Te Papa through a donation or bequest by becoming a patron.