Otago Decorative & Fine Arts Society (OtagoDFAS)

Established in 2016, Otago Decorative & Fine Arts Society (OtagoDFAS) promotes and advances the cultivation, appreciation and study of decorative and fine arts. The Otago Society provides its membership with eight very interesting and insightful lectures per year.  Lecturers undergo a stringent selection process to qualify as lecturers for The Arts Society (based in the UK), of which OtagoDFAS is a member society.  They have a reputation as being excellent international speakers who deliver well researched and illustrated talks.

Otago DFAS Programme Details

Our venue is the Auditorium, 1st Floor, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, The Octagon, Dunedin. Lectures begin promptly at 7.30pm. Please be seated by 7.20pm. Light refreshments with a glass of wine are served after each lecture. Members and guests have the opportunity to talk with the lecturer, meet other members and chat with friends.

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.



To apply for membership, please download the OtagoDFAS Membership Application Form 2021, complete and send it with your payment according to the directions of the form. Membership is limited to 125. If numbers exceed 125, your name will be placed on our waiting list and you will be given the opportunity to become a member at the beginning of the next calendar year. The annual fee is $130 per person or $230 for two people living at the same address. This covers the cost of the venue and equipment, the lecturer fees plus their travel and accommodation, and refreshments after the lecture. As an incorporated charitable trust we are a non profit organisation. Guests are welcome to attend a maximum of two lectures a year. If you would like to attend as a guest please email prior to the lecture –  Membership Secretary, Jacqui Dickson at otagodfas@gmail.com. A $25 guest fee per lecture is payable on the night. The fee for visiting DFAS members is $15. We regret no guest may attend more than two lectures per year. Membership is not transferable. For further information or to notify changes of contact details, please contact our Membership Secretary, Jacquie Dickson, via email at otagodfas@gmail.com.

Otago 2021 Programme: Lecturer Biographies and Topics

Neil Faulkner

Otago Lecture Date : Rescheduled to Wednesday 3 March 2021 – broadcast live from the UK

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

Otago Lecture Date : Wednesday 31 March 2021

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

Otago Lecture Date : Wednesday 19 May 2021 – 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.


What is it that conductors do that makes orchestras respond in so many different ways? Is it a good baton technique? A strong personality? The way they look? Why are there relatively few women found on the podium? And why are the conductors paid so much more than anyone else on the concert platform? Drawing on history and his own musical experiences from well over six thousand performances and recordings, Nigel seeks out some answers. This lecture contains some rare video footage of conductors in rehearsal and performance.

Dominic Riley

Otago Lecture Date : Wednesday 30 June 2021 – 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.


With the advent of the Arts and Crafts movement book-bindings became works of art in themselves. Dominic is one of a small number of bookbinders working today who create these unique Design Bindings. This lecture shows a range of these contemporary bindings, made variously for collectors, exhibitions, competitions, libraries and the occasional Booker shortlisted author. He will show how each design grows from a response to the text and illustrations of the printed book and explain the technical aspects of their execution. Contact otagodfas@gmail.com for Guest Registration

Pete Bossley

Otago Lecture Date : Rescheduled to Wednesday 11 August 2021

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 otagodfas@gmail.com for Guest Registration

Nicholas Merchant

Otago Lecture Date : Wednesday 15 September 2021 – 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.


David Linley has established himself as one of the leading furniture designers of our day. His furniture is inspired by the past, re-interpreted for the 21st century. Fortunately, he is not alone and the craft of the cabinet maker flourishes in this age of mediocrity. In this fully-illustrated talk, prepared in conjunction with Linley, we examine his work, his style, his inspiration and how his work relates to the history of cabinet-making in Britain. In making this lecture it is interesting to discover that many of the parameters that governed the life of say, an 18th century cabinet maker, still hold good to-day. The search for patrons, the marketing of the finished article, the construction of the furniture and the financing of the business all raise their heads just as they did 250 years ago.

Michelle Brown

OTAGO Lecture Date : Wednesday 20 October 2021 – 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 Lindisfarne Gospels, made in Northumbria in the early 8th century, is one of the world’s most famous and beautiful books. It marks the transition from the world of Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages and, through the Esperanto of art, forms a skilful blend of the various cultural ingredients available in early medieval Britain and Ireland. This illustrated lecture explores this remarkable book and the world that produced it.

Mary Kisler

Otago Lecture Date : Wednesday 24 November 2021

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.

Contact OtagoDFAS


Chairs   :  Jenny Ross
Membership Secretary   :  Jacqui Dickson /  otagodfas@gmail.com
Committee    John Timmins, Anna McCreath Munro, Joanna Salmond-Chang, Nicola McClymont, Andrena Hall, Cecylia Klobukowska, Julie Butler