Obituary: Former Rotorua museum director and art collector John Perry has died
Former Rotorua Museum Director John Perry died on Sunday. Photo / File
He was an “out of place” man responsible for the Rotorua art collection which is of national significance today.
John Perry, former director of the Rotorua Museum, great artist and collector,
passed away peacefully on Sunday at the age of 77.
The adored and quirky collector spent 20 years organizing and running the museum and amassed works at rock-bottom prices that are still talked about today.
He came to the museum in 1978 when there was no fine art and immediately started doing what he did best: collecting.
The collection is now the envy of the country, both in monetary and historical terms.
Perry was constantly on the lookout for items he found unusual, unexpected, and extraordinary.
Former museum colleague Andrew Warner said Perry made many great discoveries.
“He was very proud to find a treasure in the discarded ephemera from our throwaway society. One of those finds was an engraving by Rembrandt, which he proudly told me he acquired at a flea market in Bulls for 10 cents. . “
He told the Rotorua Daily Post in an article by Jill Nicholas in Our People in 2015 that responding to the council’s “gray suit brigade” at the time of his museum gallery had led to “many difficult clashes.”
One big event was when he convinced advisers to fork out $ 400 for a $ 800 Ralph Hotere job. The Arts Council paid the other half.
“What I failed to say was that it was on corrugated iron. There was a lot of complaint about it. I was accused of buying 24k rust – today ‘Yeah, that’s worth $ 250,000,’ Perry told the Rotorua Daily Post in 2015.
Former Mayor Grahame Hall described Perry as knowledgeable, dedicated and enthusiastic.
“His reports to the board were always very thorough and interesting, and due to his enthusiasm, it was always very difficult for the chair of the meeting to keep the time.
“He had a great eye for paintings and I remember on one of the occasions John told us about his early days of collecting art he said he had managed to buy a painting from a promising artist at a great price, which he kept for several years and finally sold it for enough money to build his first house. “
When Perry finally left Rotorua, the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust knew he was a good bet and kept him as artistic advisor for their Heritage collection.
“He played a very important role in advising the Trustees on the purchase and maintenance of the Heritage collection. His energy, enthusiasm and professional knowledge have always been there and he will be sorely missed in the art world.
Mayor Steve Chadwick said Perry was an “out of the box” director of the museum for about 10 years.
She said they shared a love of the fine art and a friendship as he trained with her brother, Dick Frizzell.
“He had an incredible insight and ability to spot emerging talent, as well as nurture a deep value in New Zealand artists.
“He frequented auction houses and purchased an incredible set of works important to the Rotorua Museum which has grown in value over the years.”
Chadwick recalled his “care and manaakitanga” for the guest artists.
“We loved his artistic tours, which involved exploring important rock art, visiting hidden hot springs, and combing Motutara Pt.”
Perry founded the Friends of the Art Gallery and Chadwick was an active member alongside other town leaders Roger Brewster and Paul East.
“He treated the supporters with respect and appreciated their contribution.”
Chadwick said Perry said his Feathers and Fiber exhibit, which celebrated historic and contemporary Maori weaving, was the largest he had organized.
“I would rate his exhibition of geothermal-inspired works as equally inspiring.”
Chadwick said she enjoyed his frequent visits to Rotorua, the latest of which was to step in to keep a controversial work by Theo Schoon on local property.
“In typical style, he slept in his famous minivan outside of our storage site until he could come see me.”
Chadwick said he continues to monitor the market closely and has identified many works that he believes should belong to Rotorua care.
“Unfortunately, since the earthquake closed the gallery in 2015, we have stopped buying these treasures on the open market. Thank you, John Perry, for your gift of talent in our place. We are that much richer. for your passion and your prudence. “
Former, experienced museum guide and senior staff member Ann Somerville said Perry was one of the most influential people in his life.
She worked with him for five years and said they “had a great time”.
“Exhibitions such as Elvis in Geyserland, Not Bad Eh, Birds of a Feather, Taking a Pew have extracted a living and often original vein of New Zealand objects and art. He was very, very funny and had a penchant for dressing interestingly.
“He was known and loved by many influential artists and we had the privilege of meeting them when they came to see John.”
Warner, who worked with Perry alongside Somerville, described him as an “incredible mentor” and said that his enthusiasm for all things art would be greatly missed.
“John could hold an object in his hand that seemed insignificant at first, but after telling the long and winding story of his place in our world, you understood its power and beauty.”
Moe mai rā e te Ranmatira (rest in peace).
Perry had three sons and five grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on June 20 at 1 p.m. at Webb’s, 33a Normanby Rd, Auckland.