Auckland Decorative & Fine Arts Society (AkDFAS)

Established in 2003, Auckland Decorative & Fine Arts Society (AkDFAS) promotes and advances the cultivation, appreciation and study of decorative and fine arts, along with contributing to the preservation of New Zealand’s artistic heritage.

In 2021 AkDFAS enjoyed excellent lectures through the magic of Zoom and have had positive feedback regarding that medium, in the absence of
in-person speakers, due to Covid restrictions on travel.

Topics ranged from the Perfume Masterclass (Benny Castles), NZ Architecture (Pete Bossley), to David Lean’s Art of Cinema and with another marvellous line up of experts on a variety of fascinating facts in the world of the Arts, we expect our lives to be further enhanced in 2022.

We continue our involvement with the Auckland Art Gallery, with private tours and support for the educational programme.


auckland-volunteersThe lectures are held at the Auckland University in the Owen Glenn Building, above the carpark.  

Parking is available in the Owen Glenn Building (entrance off Grafton Rd) for a $6.00 flat fee (cash helps).

Guests are most welcome ($30.00 per guest) but we would appreciate their names in advance so name tags may be prepared. Please email Lectures are held in the evening 7.30 pm to 8.30pm. A sandwich and glass of wine is served after the lecture.

our 2022 programme

We are still challenged by the ongoing Covid-19 situation, however in 2021 we were able to deliver a full programme of eight lectures to members, either gathered at the venue or online at home.

For the first half of 2022 we do not expect to be bringing any lecturers into New Zealand from overseas although remain optimistic that this may change by the end of the year. However, we are still offering a full programme of eight lectures, and hope that we will be able to gather for them all at our venue. There will continue to be a mix of accredited The Arts Society lecturers from the UK (delivered by live broadcast) and a couple of New Zealand and Australian based lecturers – ideally with us in person. We hope that things will run smoothly but will be ready to adapt our programme arrangements if necessary. We will continue to deliver lectures directly to members at home if gathering restrictions require it.  


Our annual subscription rate is $190.00 per person. Subscription notices are mailed in December and are payable by February 1st.

Returning members:   Please make payment by internet banking, then complete the AkDFAS 2022 Membership Form with any updated details and email to :

New members: To apply for membership, please download the AkDFAS 2022 Membership Form, complete and make your payment according to the directions on the form.

Membership is not transferable, however Members’ guests are welcome. There is a charge of $30 per guest per lecture, and $15 for visiting members of other New Zealand DFAS Societies. Please notify by the Monday evening prior to the Wednesday lecture if you are bringing a guest.

Auckland – 2022 Lecturer Biographies and Topics


Ian Swankie

AUCKLAND Lecture Date : Wednesday 23 February 2022 – BROADCAST LIVE FROM THE UK

direct to members at home – 7.30pm

A Londoner with a passion for art and architecture, Ian is an official guide at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Guildhall Art Gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral, and gives tours around each venue. He is also a qualified and active freelance London guide and leads regular tours for various corporations and organisations. Since 2012 he has led a popular weekly independent art lecture group in his home-town of Richmond in West London. He is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars, one of the City livery companies.


With such a superstar neighbour, it is not surprising that the immediate vicinity of St Paul’s Cathedral contains a rich vein of art. Never straying more than a few steps from St Paul’s, we’ll see a fascinating range of works from the early 1700s to the present day. In this armchair tour we’ll discover monuments, unusual structures, hidden gardens, modern art and the little known ‘dog kennel’ by Christopher Wren. Some of our discoveries can be easily spotted, but many are not so obvious.

Caroline Shenton

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 23 March 2022 – broadcast live from the UK

direct to members at home – 7.30pm

Dr. Caroline Shenton is an archivist and historian. She was formerly Director of the Parliamentary Archives in London, and before that was a senior archivist at the National Archives. Her book The Day Parliament Burned Down won the Political Book of the Year Award in 2013 and Mary Beard called it ‘microhistory at its absolute best’. Its acclaimed sequel, Mr Barry’s War, about the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, was a Book of the Year in 2016 for The Daily Telegraph and BBC History Magazine, and was described by Lucy Worsley as “a real jewel, finely wrought and beautiful”. Caroline was Political Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library in 2017, has appeared at the Cheltenham, Hay and Henley literary festivals and on BBC radio and TV. Caroline’s third book, National Treasures, will tell the extraordinary and sometimes hilarious stories behind the saving of London’s art and museum collections in World War Two.


This lecture explores the story of the suffragettes through their ‘pro and anti’ portrayals in cartoons, postcards and paintings – as well as their own artistic productions. It will also consider the Suffragettes’ impact on the Houses of Parliament itself and how the Parliamentary Art Collection has responded to criticism that its own collection is too ‘male, pale and stale’. By turns amusing, infuriating, enraging and ultimately inspiring, you will come away from this talk with a new appreciation of how the campaign for equal electoral rights was won by and through art.

Stephen Taylor

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 4 May 2022 – broadcast live from the UK

direct to members at home – 7.30pm

Stephen Taylor is an artist and art historian who studied John Constable as a post graduate at Essex and Yale, taught art at Felsted School and went on to became Head of Painting at The Open College of the Arts and course director for the Inchbald School of Design. In 2000, Stephen turned to landscape painting with early shows at King’s College Cambridge, Meisel’s New York and Vertigo in London. Now has pictures in private collections world-wide and his book Oak: One tree, three years, fifty paintings was featured in The GuardianThe New Statesman and on Oprah Winfrey’s website.


‘Empire’ was a Napoleonic court style that stretched from the provinces of Jane Austin’s England to Western Russia. A generation later a less expensive, factory made version – ‘Biedermier’ – sold to the middle markets illustrated in the novels of Charles Dickens.  Victorian taste for rich upholstery and strong decorative patterns produced a new, layered interior of domestication and comfort. The Arts & Crafts reaction to this richness produced a simpler, craft inspired look that pointed he way to modernism. Designers and interiors include Percier and Fontaine at Malmaison; Joseph Danhauser and the Vienna factories; The Crace Brothers at Winsdor Castle; interiors in Alice Through The Looking Glass; The Great Exhibition catalogue; The Red House by Webb and Morris; William Goodwin and Whistler’s White House.

Gregory O’Brien

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 15 June 2022 – 7.30pm

Sir Owen Glenn Building, Lecture Room 260-098, Auckland University, 12 Grafton Rd.

Poet, essayist, editor and artist Gregory O’Brien is a busy and energetic presence in both arts and literature within New Zealand. With one foot in the literary world and the other in the visual art realm, Gregory has been on the cultural scene for nearly three decades. Gregory trained as a journalist in Auckland and worked as a newspaper reporter in Northland before returning to study art history and English at Auckland University. Between 1997 and 2009 he was curator at the City Gallery, Wellington, and was awarded the Arts Foundation Laureate in 2012 and the MNZM in 2013. Greg has illustrated his own poetry books and has written three publications introducing art to young people. His artworks can be found on book covers worldwide and his poems and drawings were the basis for a winter fashion collection by Auckland designer Doris de Pont in 2006. He has produced books on artists including Ralph Hotere, Graham Percy and Pat Hanly and is currently working on a monograph of Don Binney.

Note: this lecturer was originally scheduled for February.


Expanding on the artistic territories covered in his recent book Always song in the water (AUP 2019) and his forthcoming monograph on Don Binney, art writer/curator/poet Gregory O’Brien will explore aspects of the relationship between place, visual art and the written word in the recent art of Aotearoa/New Zealand  art. He will discuss the many ways that place–in particular the provincial landscape–has been a radicalising rather than a conservative force in this country’s imaginative life. Spanning the work of a number of artists O’Brien has written about in the past–among them Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Robin White, John Pule and Elizabeth Thomson–he will explore the imaginative possibilities of the landscape genre as well as signalling an evolving awareness of Oceanic realities that both challenges and enhances our understanding of these islands on which we live.

Andrew Hopkins

auckland Lecture Date : wednesday 27 July 2022 – broadcast live from the UK – 7.30pm

Sir Owen Glenn Building, Lecture Room 260-098, Auckland University, 12 Grafton Rd.

Andrew Hopkins is a previous Assistant Director of the British School at Rome from 1998 to 2002 and since 2004, Associate Professor at the University of L’Aquila. Part of his PhD (Courtauld Institute 1995) on Venetian architecture was awarded the Essay Medal of 1996 by the Society of Architectural Historians (GB). A Fellow at Harvard University’s Villa I Tatti in Florence in 2003-2004, and in 2009 was the Paul Mellon Senior Visiting Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Amongst his many publications are, with Arnold Witte, Alois RieglThe Origins of Baroque Art in Rome (2010), and Baldassare Longhena and the Venetian Baroque (2012). 


Much richer than the Guggenheims, the Rockefellers – even today the richest and most powerful family in the USA – not only amassed one of the greatest art collections of the 20th Century, including superb impressionists, but also donated their 9 storey New York townhouse on Fifth Avenue to found the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA. An incredibly private family, mostly the family avoided scandal, but some time back I worked for a year in one of Harvard University’s research institutes, whose director had been married to a Rockefeller, so I learnt some of their secret and shameful stories.

Barry Venning

auckland Lecture Date : wednesday 30 august 2022 – 7.30pm

Sir Owen Glenn Building, Lecture Room 260-098, Auckland University, 12 Grafton Rd.

Barry Venning is an historian of British art with a particular interest in the work of JMW Turner, on whom he has published widely, including the volume on Turner in Phaidon’s Art & Ideas series, and several catalogue essays for exhibitions in the UK, Germany, Italy and Poland. He was the BBC’s script consultant on Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and has recently taken part (2013) in a BBC documentary called The Genius of Turner: Painting the Industrial Revolution.
Barry has also published a study of John Constable’s paintings. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary British art. He is currently Associate Lecturer with the Open University and lecturing on a freelance basis for The Arts Society, Christie’s Education and other organisations.


The late Christopher Hitchens, who knew a thing or two about feuds, once wrote that a really first rate bust up requires one of at least two things: a clash of strong personalities, and a conflict of principles. Art history is peppered with first rate bust ups: between the great early Renaissance artists, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, between Constable and Turner in the early 1830s, between Salvador Dali and the Surrealist leader, Andre Breton, in the 1930s and, most recently, between the graffiti artists Banksy and ‘King’ Robbo, who painted out and defaced each other’s works.

John Stevens

auckland Lecture Date : wednesday 5 October 2022 – BROADCAST LIVE FROM THE UK – 7.30pm

Sir Owen Glenn Building, Lecture Room 260-098, Auckland University, 12 Grafton Rd.

Dr. John Stevens is a Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, and a member of academic staff at the SOAS South Asia Institute.  His PhD in History is from University College London. He teaches British Imperial history, Indian history and Bengali language, and is a regular visitor to India and Bangladesh. He publishes widely in the fields of British and Indian history. His biography of the Indian guru Keshab Chandra Sen – Keshab: Bengal’s Forgotten Prophet – was published by Hurst and Oxford University Press in 2018.He appears regularly in the Indian media, and was recently a guest on BBC Radio Four’s In Our Time, discussing the poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore. 


Before the British arrived in India, the Indian subcontinent was ruled by the Mughal Emperors. The stunning buildings and gardens they constructed from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century have left an indelible stamp on India’s architectural and cultural landscape. Mughal architecture fused elements from Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural traditions, and gave rise to some of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in the world. From the Jama Masjid in Delhi, to the Taj Mahal in Agra, to the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, this lecture will take you on a tour of some of India’s greatest buildings, and provide insight into the historical contexts and colourful personalities involved in their construction.

Mary Kisler

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 9 November 2022 – 7.30pm

Sir Owen Glenn Building, Lecture Room 260-098, Auckland University, 12 Grafton Rd.

Mary Kisler is an author, art historian and Radio New Zealand art commentator, having recently retired as Senior Curator, Mackelvie Collection, International Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Mary earned her master’s degree in art history and Italian at the University of Auckland in 1994. She has been a curator at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki since 1998, caring for a collection that spans from c.1150 to 1950, a large part of which is European art but which also includes a small collection of Indian miniatures and Japanese ukiyo-e prints. In 2010 Godwit published her book Angels & Aristocrats: Early European Art in New Zealand Public Galleries. In 2019 the Auckland Art Gallery published her Hodgkins catalogue raisonnée to accompany a major Hodgkins exhibition.


This lecture examines the dialectic between Victorian morals and social constraints, not least for women, and how these ideas played out within the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the women they loved.

AkDFAS Supporting the Arts

AkDFAS enjoys a close relationship with the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki. 2020 saw us complete our three year pledge to the conservation of John Sparrowe Esq – a Gainsborough painting. Under the leadership of Sarah Hillary the work was transformed to its former glory. After discussions with the Gallery we have pledged $5000 for 2021 to support the Gallery’s Learning and Outreach Programme by contributing to the cost of decile one schools to participate in this outstanding programme.

Contact AkDFAS


Chair : Nina Jane Williams /
Membership Secretary : Ann Batten /

Committee : Nan Norris (Deputy Chair & Treasurer), Penny Guise (Immediate Past Chair), Charlotte Hellaby (Past Chair),  Rosemary Dayman, Linda MacFarlane, Jennie Oakley, Adele Buchanan