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.

AkDFAS Programme Details

auckland-volunteersThe lectures are held at the Auckland University – the first three lectures are held in the Owen Glenn Building, above the carpark.  The remaining lectures are held at the Auckland University – Lecture TheatreB28 below the University Library. Entrance off Albert Street, Auckland City.

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 2020 Programme was affected by the Covid-19 situation, however we were still able to deliver two live lectures and two broadcast lectures to members at home. In 2021 we have made the decision not to attempt bringing any lecturers in from overseas. However, we are still offering a full programme of eight lectures, the four New Zealand-based lectures will be with us in person and the four UK-based Arts Society lecturers will deliver their lectures by live broadcast to our venues or to members at home if Covid-19 restrictions require this. We are optimistically anticipating an undisrupted year, but of course our arrangements may be subject to change if the need arises.


Returning members: due to the disruption of our 2020 programme, and thanks to the money that we have in reserve, the AkDFAS committee has agreed that we will roll over all 2020 paid membership subscriptions to cover the full 2021 programme as well. Therefore current members will not need to do anything for the new year except update any changed details if necessary. Please email: to do this.

New members: To apply for membership, please download the AKDFAS 2021 Subscription Form, complete and send it with your payment according to the directions on the form. Subscription notices are mailed in December and are payable by February 1st.

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.

2021 Lecturer Biographies and Topics


Neil Faulkner

Auckland Lecture Date : Rescheduled to Wednesday 17 February 2021 

[Broadcast live from the UK, direct to members at home due to Covid-19 restrictions]
Neil Faulkner was educated at King’s College Cambridge and Institute of Archaeology UCL. He works as a lecturer, writer, archaeologist and occasional broadcaster. Research Fellow, University of Bristol. Editor, Military History Monthly. Director, Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project. Director, Great Arab Revolt Project. Author of The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain, Apocalypse, Hidden Treasure, Rome: Empire of the Eagles, and The Ancient Greek Olympics: a visitor’s guide. Author of forthcoming Lawrence of Arabia’s War. Major TV appearances include Channel 4’s Time Team, BBC2’s Timewatch, Channel Five’s Boudica Revealed and Sky Atlantic’s The British.


Cinematic images are modern art forms. In the ‘golden age’ of cinema – before the development of CGI technology – film-makers had to construct sets to represent landscapes, townscapes, and interiors. Sometimes they used paintings and photographs, sometimes they built scale models, sometimes they constructed full-size replicas. In each case, they created an art installation they then captured in celluloid images. Drawing on new insights from the archaeology of cinema, this lecture will use the films of renowned British director David Lean to explore the art of cinema. How do the ‘artists’ – in this case formed of large collaborative teams (directors, screenwriters, production designers, costume designers, camera crews, fixers, etc.) – choose locations, construct sets, dress actors, and, more generally, ‘imagine’ the world they seek to represent? How much is authentic, and how much preconception and prejudice? What are the influences on the way the cinema depicts the world?

Benny Castles

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 17 March 2021 – Owen Glenn Building

For 20 years Benny has been associated with WORLD, a fashion brand now in its 3rd decade as one of NZ’s most iconic and Avant-garde fashion houses and retail experiences. WORLD was the first fashion brand in NZ to be given a retrospective at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in 2005. Benny started his career with WORLD in retail and is now a partner, designer and director of the company. Benny’s face may be familiar from his appearance as a judge on the recent TVNZ reality fashion show Project Runway.


Unlike the older nations of Europe, New Zealand has little or no history or culture in fine fragrance and scent. The talk will focus on fragrance etiquette and scent profiles, but most importantly brand and fragrance history. Many of the brands date back to the 1700’s and some earlier. They touch on historical figures like Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Grace Kelly, JFK and Winston Churchill, as well as moments in time and object history. Benny’s presentations have been extremely successful with both men and women and especially for those less interested or experienced in fragrance as they are a wonderful eye-opener into history, culture and the cult of fragrance that has become such a globalised and dominant industry. The talk promises to be educational and informative as well as being fun and thought-provoking.

Nigel Bates

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 5 May 2021 – Owen Glenn Building

[Broadcast live from the UK]
Nigel Bates was the Music Administrator of The Royal Ballet from 2012 to 2020 and has been a performer for nearly forty years in and out of London’s Royal Opera House, including seventeen years as Principal Percussionist with the Orchestra. He has worked with many of the leading figures in the classical music industry and was also a producer for both the BBC’s Maestro at the Opera and Pappano’s Classical Voices documentary series. He is a regular contributor to the printed and online content of the ROH. Nigel has given lectures for over twenty years, including arts societies and conservatoires in the UK and across Australia.


Tantrums & Tiaras is a look at backstage life at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the pressures faced by performers, be they singer, dancer, conductor or musician. We see how the building copes with the demands of modern productions and examine audience expectations both inside the theatre and out. We also look at some of the highs and try to understand some of the lows that have been the fortune of this world-class performing venue over the years. Fully illustrated including audio and video clips.

Dominic Riley

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 16 June 2021 – Lecture Theatre B28, University Library

[broadcast live from the UK]
Dominic Riley is an internationally renowned bookbinder and teacher. He specializes in the restoration of antiquarian books and the creation of contemporary fine bindings. He teaches bookbinding both in the UK and USA, and his prize-winning bindings are in collections worldwide, including the British Library. He is a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders and President of the Society of Bookbinders. In 2013 he won the prestigious Sir Paul Getty award in the International Bookbinding Competition, and his winning binding was acquired by the Bodleian Library in Oxford.


William Morris founded his Kelmscott Press in 1890 in order to save the fine art of hand printing in Britain. When in 1896 his last book, the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, was published, it was universally hailed as the greatest book of the age. It is a huge book, with illustrations by Burne Jones and decorations by Morris, and was printed at the press in Hammersmith over a four year period. Fewer than 400 copies were produced. In 2012 Dominic was presented with a copy in a poor binding, with a view to creating a contemporary artistic binding for it. This lecture is the record that process. He will give an overview of Morris and the Kelmscott Press, and then talk about his very demanding commission — from the early designs to the completion of the project four years later. This lecture is a step-by-step look at how fine bindings are made, as well as an insight into an extraordinary artistic journey. The completed binding has been donated to the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert museum, an institution very close to William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. Contact membershipakdfas@gmail for Guest Registration

Pete Bossley

Auckland Lecture Date : Rescheduled to Wednesday 28 July 2021 – LECTURE THEATRE b28, UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

BArch (Hons), NZCD (Arch), Registered Architect (NZ), Fellow NZIA, RAIA, NZIA Gold Medal 2012, Alliance Partner Group GSA, Chair NZIA Auckland 2006-2008
Pete Bossley has an extensive reputation in architecture and interior design, with particular experience in galleries, museums and residential. He is known for several memorable buildings such as the Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa, the Sir Peter Blake extension to the National Maritime Museum in Auckland, many iconic houses throughout the country, apartment buildings and social housing projects. He has exhibited and lectured extensively on his work here and overseas. He has also taught architectural design for over 25 years and was adjunct professor of Architecture at Unitec Architecture and Landscape School.  In 2012 Pete was awarded the NZIA Gold Medal, the highest honour in New Zealand Architecture.


Pete will discuss the importance of ideas to underline good architecture, identifying themes which have run through 40 years of architecture, using projects from his practice as examples. Themes which have been developed over the years and in numerous projects include…
-Fault lines: architectural responses to the perils of living in a faulted land. This is not in terms of seismic engineering, but more of the narrative arising from our fragile geological situation, and how this awareness has generated ideas which have driven the design of architectural projects.
-Encampments: a series of projects which respond to the New Zealand landform by referencing the traditional courtyard house, modified to accept the power of our landscape, incorporating it in to the design of the houses rather than precluding it. Camp formations ranging from Roman military bases to kiwi campsites suggest the value of creating a large whole from a series of smaller pods. Other themes will include the importance of our skyscapes, natural light, balance and imbalance. Contact membershipakdfas@gmail for Guest Registration

Nicholas Merchant

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 1 September 2021 – Lecture Theatre B28, University Library

[broadcast live from the UK]
Nicholas Merchant’s career has mirrored his abiding interest in antiques. He has worked for some of the major auction houses in London as well as running his own book business devoted to the decorative and fine arts. His particular interest is English 18th century furniture and country houses; he enjoys discussing objects, particularly in their historical context. He lectures extensively in the USA, South Africa, Europe and UK, including the V&A, as well as for the principal cruise lines. He is the Art Fund’s West Yorkshire Representative. He arranges specialist short breaks for collectors and a range of prestigious clients including groups of The Arts Society who enjoy visiting the treasures of the UK.


Queen Mary was born in May 1867, as the only daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, cousin of Queen Victoria and her husband, Francis, Duke of Teck. As the daughter of a minor (and impecunious) member of the Royal family, her position was somewhat equivocal, but her subsequent marriage to the heir to the throne, and so becoming in 1910 Queen of England and Empress of India, brought out her sterling qualities. The travails she witnessed in her life, with a complete reversal of all that she had known as a girl imposed an enormous strain. However, through all these vicissitudes collecting and re-arranging the extensive Royal Collection was, in her own words, “My One Great Hobby”. This lecture explores in detail these collecting interests and shows how her influence remains today.

Michelle Brown

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 6 October 2021 – Lecture Theatre B28, University Library

[broadcast live from the UK]
Michelle Brown, FSA, is Professor Emerita at SAS, University of London and a Visiting Professor at University College London. She was formerly the Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library. She is a leading expert on Late Antique, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon culture and on manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells. She has published, lectured (including in Australia) and broadcast widely. Her many publications include: Art of the Islands: Celtic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and Viking Visual Culture.

Note: This lecturer replaces Gregory O’Brien, who is rescheduled to February 2022


The Luttrell Psalter offers a fascinating insight into life in England in the turbulent 14th century. Made in Norwich and Lincs for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, Lord of the Manor of Irnham (Lincs.) in the 1330s, its margins contain a riot of imaginative images peopled not only by saints and grotesques, but by the family and the ordinary folk who worked their land. Their successes and scandals are explored in coded images. For this was an age when kings were deposed by their adulterous queens, heiresses eloped with clerks and the property-merger marriages of barons risked incest. The Black Death was about to decimate Europe, the Scots and French were hostile, and the peasants were getting restless, stalking the margins of society and of the pages. Meanwhile, a hard-hitting Dominican friar sought to get Sir Geoffrey and his people to heaven and painted his spiritual teachings for them, illuminating the age-old cry ‘de profundis’ of the Psalms.

Mary Kisler

Auckland Lecture Date : Wednesday 10 November 2021 – Lecture Theatre B28, University Library

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