Art & creativity  |  13 Dec 2022

Visitor numbers to Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū are starting to see a return to normal after three years of COVID 19 disruption.

Figures for the year to 22 November show 216,344 people visited the gallery, with that number expected to reach 237,000 by the end of December.

That compares with 350,000 visitors in 2019, 253,000 in 2020 and 265,000 in 2021.

“We have seen lower visitor numbers in 2022 because of the months spent in the grip of the Omicron wave and caution from potential visitors around visiting public facilities. However since Omicron cases have dropped and public confidence has increased we have seen a gradual trend towards a return to the levels we expect,” says Director Blair Jackson.

“We have a wide and evolving visitor base and we are constantly looking for ways to provide engaging, stimulating and captivating experiences for our audiences.”

Gallery figures for January to November this year show young people aged 25-34 made up the largest group of visitors at 19 percent followed by under 16’s with 16 per cent and 35-44 years old’s with 14 percent. Visitors from other age groups were evenly spread.

“Visits from family groups also made up 20 per cent which is pleasing to see as this is an audience we’ve deliberately encouraged and provided for through our exhibitions, activities and events,” Mr Jackson says.  

Louisa Afoa Blue Clam 2018. Photograph. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. Currently on display as part of Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection.

These include the successful finale to Ōtautahi Christchurch’s Hip Hop Summit which had 2863 attendees.

Just over half of visitors to the gallery this year were Christchurch residents, 35 percent were from the rest of New Zealand and five percent each from wider Canterbury and the rest of New Zealand.

While reluctant to single out one exhibition from the 12 that opened this year, Mr Jackson says current exhibitions Brett Graham: Tai Moana Tai Tangata and the huge new collection show Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection shouldn’t be missed.

Looking ahead to 2023 there is plenty on the calendar as Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū celebrates its 20th birthday.

A large winter exhibition will focus on the gallery’s historical collection and later in the year a showcase of contemporary artists is set to take over the entire ground floor.