The Arts Society Wellington

The Decorative and Fine Arts Society of Wellington Incorporated (WeDFAS) was the third Society to be established in New Zealand and had its first lecture in August 2006. In 2018 we changed our name to The Arts Society Wellington, in line with the re-branding of our parent body in the UK. We offer the opportunity to hear eight top quality, diverse and interesting lectures each year covering a wide range of decorative and fine arts subjects. Recently our members have enjoyed hearing about architecture, glass, painting, fashion, porcelain, artists, sculpture, art history, design, craft, archaeology, literature and ceramics. Our lecturers primarily come from the UK where they have undergone a stringent selection process to qualify as lecturers for The Arts Society (based in the UK). The Arts Society lecturers have a reputation as excellent speakers who deliver well-researched and illustrated talks. Our membership currently stands at 240. At a Special General Meeting on 30 July 2018 the Society adopted its new operating name and updated its Rules. The current Rules, which were further amended at the 2021 AGM to cover electronic meetings, can be read here. Each year the Society donates $3,000 – $4,000 to local charities and causes, particularly those with a youth focus.

Programme Details

The Arts Society Wellington hosts eight one-hour lectures per year. They take place on a Monday evening with a 6pm start, at the National Library Auditorium Taiwhanga Kauhau, Aitken Street, Thorndon, unless otherwise advised. We round off the evening with a glass of wine and sandwiches, providing members with an opportunity to meet the lecturer and each other.

We have continued to be challenged by Covid-19 and the border situation, however in 2022 we were able to deliver a full programme of eight Society lectures to members, either gathered at the venue or online at home. Additional online topics were also offered for home viewing.

In 2023, we return more to normal with a mix of accredited The Arts Society lecturers from the UK, and one New Zealand and one Australian based lecturer – most will be with us in person with just a couple by live broadcast. 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 any gathering restrictions should require it.


The Arts Society Wellington has a full membership and a waiting list. The waiting list operates in date order. Membership is not transferable. To express an interest to join, please download the TASW Membership Application Form 2023 and send it to the Membership Secretary at PO Box 19030, Marion Square, Wellington, 6141 or to  To enquire about lectures or have your name added to the waiting list, please contact our Membership Secretary, Denise Almao, at  or PO Box 19030, Marion Square, Wellington, 6141.

Annual membership is $140.00 or $280.00 for two persons living at the same address. The membership subscription covers the cost of venue and equipment, travel and accommodation and fees for lecturers and refreshments after the lectures. As an incorporated society and registered charity, we are a non-profit organisation and support the arts within our community.

Because seating in our lecture theatre is limited, members are required to advise our Membership Secretary in advance if they wish to bring a guest. We regret that guests are restricted to attending just two lectures a year. There is a charge of $25.00 per guest. Members of other NZ Societies or international members of The Arts Society are welcome to attend our lectures at a charge of $15.00 on prior notification to our Membership Secretary.

Wellington – 2023 Lecturer Biographies and Topics

Geoffrey Edwards

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 27 February 2023 – 6.00pm

Geoffrey Edwards was Director of the Geelong Art Gallery, one of Australia’s oldest and largest regional galleries.   Prior to this appointment, he held Senior Curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Victoria where he was in charge of the collections of International and Australian sculpture and Melbourne’s celebrated holdings of ancient, antique and modern glass. His professional affiliations, here and abroad, are extensive and include, amongst others, the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, Visions Australia, the International Councils of Museums [ICOM], Craft Australia, Museums Australia [Victoria], the Winston Churchill Trust [he is a former Churchill Fellow], the George Baldessin Trust and the National Trust of Australia [Victoria]. He is the author of various monographs, numerous exhibition catalogues and contributes to journals in Australia, Japan, Britain and the US.


As one of the oldest art forms, monumental sculpture has been presented in spectacular outdoor settings since antiquity. The princely estates of Renaissance and Baroque Europe were populated with marble nymphs and classical deities. Major art museums throughout the world feature large-scale sculpture in their gardens and courtyards. But the idea of a park or garden conceived expressly for the display of sculpture is essentially a modern phenomenon. From Miami to Merricks is an account of the creation from the mid-twentieth century onwards of public and private sculpture parks in Europe, the US and Japan including more recent and remarkable examples in New Zealand and Australia.

Marc Allum

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 27 March 2023 – 6.00pm

Marc Allum is a freelance art and antiques journalist, writer and broadcaster based in Wiltshire. He is shortly to begin his 23rd year as a specialist on the BBC Antiques Roadshow and has appeared on numerous television and radio programmes. Marc regularly writes for mainstream magazines and is an author, antiques consultant and lecturer. He also runs a fine art valuation and consultancy service. Marc has his own unique style with interests ranging from pre-history to modern design and is a self-confessed collectaholic. He has a passion and reputation for divining the unusual through ‘a desire to connect with history through the interpretation and pursuit of objects and their origins’. Marc has lectured widely for many years to a number of different organisations in both the public and charity sector, including travel companies, The National Trust, The WI and many literary festivals including Cheltenham, Bath, Wells and Petworth. Marc is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.


An intriguing journey through the history of the ‘cabinet of curiosity’ and the origins of our modern museums. Based on decades of personal experience – as both a collector and auctioneer – Marc’s talk explores some of the great collectors from history, including John Tradescant, whose collection founded the Ashmolean in Oxford, together with a fascinating insight into the alchemy, myth and folklore which inspired their curiosity

Karin Fernald

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 8 May 2023 – broadcast live from the UK – 6.00pm

Karin is known for her entertaining lectures on writers and diarists connected with the arts from the mid-18th to 19th century and moving forward in time with Virginia Woolf. Extensive research into diaries and letters bring lectures to vivid life. Karin illustrates them with slides of contemporary pictures and portraits from varied sources.



“I could have been a married woman, a hospital sister or a literary woman.” The Crimean War took two years of Nightingale’s life. Much of the rest was spent writing, vividly and with black humour, on tough issues – the health of the army, sanitation, hospital construction, the nature of God and – toughest of all – Florence Nightingale. She was both musical and artistic, affected for life by Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling. “Imagination and poetry begin life. A child will fall on its knees on the gravel walk before a white cherry in bloom, to thank God for it.” (From Notes On Nursing, Florence Nightingale, 1861.) This lecture deals with aspects of Nightingale’s life before and after the Crimean War. With paintings, sketches and portraits from the Nightingale Museum at St. Thomas’ Hospital, by artists including Julia Smith (Florence’s aunt); Parthenope, Lady Verney (Florence’s sister), and cousin Hilary Bonham Carter.

Note: With her online lecture circuit, Karin will be delivering eight unique lectures to all the NZ Societies so there is an opportunity to view additional topics from home. Details and links will be sent in advance.

Leslie Primo

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 19 June 2023 – 6.00pm

Leslie Primo holds a BA in Art History and an MA in Renaissance Studies from Birkbeck College, University of London. Was Visiting Lecturer in Art History at the University of Reading in 2005 and 2007, gave lectures and guided tours, plus special talks, at both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery for 18 years. Currently he lectures at the City Literary Institute, Imperial College, London, and has presented a series of talks at the National Maritime Museum and the Courtauld Institute.


This lecture will attempt to revive the reputation and celebrate a great artist that, although born in Switzerland, went on to become a great British Neo-Classical artist, with a reputation equal to her male contemporaries in an age that rarely recognised women in this field.
This lecture will not only look at her training and early paintings, but also the influence on Kauffman of Italian painting and the great Renaissance masters, not to mention Dutch painting.  The lecture will also chart Kauffman’s rise to fame on the Continent, along with her association with the most famous figures of the age including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 –1832) and Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) to name but a few.
The lecture will also look at Kauffmann’s controversial private life, her arrival in England and subsequent success in a relatively short period of time, and what happened to Kauffmann after leaving England.
Thorough the use of existing documentary evidence gained from the National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive the lecture will not only chart the rise of Kauffman, but also look at how her work was received by the critics of her day and beyond.

Andrew Prince

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 31 July 2023 – broadcast live from the UK – 6.00pm

Andrew grew up with a passion for jewellery and was always determined that he would forge a career in jewellery design. At sixteen he started work in London’s Bond Street with the Antiques Roadshow expert Ian Harris. From there he worked with renowned contemporary jeweller Elizabeth Gage, working in design and production. Andrew has a love of fine ’costume jewellery’ and antique pieces, realising the beauty of elegant design and fine craftsmanship. Andrew’s work started to become well-known and private commissions came from celebrities including Shirley Bassey and the late Michael Jackson. In 2002 the V&A commissioned a collection of jewels to accompany the ‘Tiaras, Past & Present’ exhibition – and this exposure led to Andrew’s jewellery appearing in films. In 2005 he made pieces for ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’ starring Judy Dench: in 2009 for ‘The Young Victoria’ starring Emily Blunt and Miranda Richardson; in 2012 for the third series of Downton Abbey for characters played by Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery.


In this talk which follows on from ‘Downton to Gatsby’, Andrew shows how the Great Depression and the Second World war had such an extraordinary impact on fashion and jewellery design with the rise of cinema and Hollywood. From the likes of Marlene Dietrich to Grace Kelly, he guides you through the various screen goddesses, how they were portrayed and what they gave to such dazzling effect.
Andrew also shows that with the development of advertising, labour saving devices and leisure time, people had more opportunities to enjoy themselves and spend money on the finer things in life, as well as how the political events of the time influenced design and what was worn. He also shows how the Belle Epoque and Art Deco styles did not end at the outbreak of the Second World War, but combined, to flower again with Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’.

Note: With his online lecture circuit, Andrew will be delivering six unique lectures to all the NZ Societies so there is an opportunity to view additional topics from home. Details and links will be sent in advance.

Leigh Capel

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 4 September 2023 – 7.30pm

Leigh has been employed in the art industry as a valuer and specialist since 2013, and has worked at distinguished auction houses including Menzies, Mossgreen and Sotheby’s. In 2018, he became the Director of Belle Epoque Fine Art & Antiques, his mother’s business, known for supplying art and furniture to the Australian Film & Television industry, particularly Baz Luhrmann’s films. He is an accredited valuer of the Auctioneers & Valuers Association of Australia. Since 2019, Leigh has exhibited art and more recently has provided valuations at The Sydney Fair at Royal Randwick and The Melbourne Fair at Caulfield Racecourse. His projects have featured in Vogue Australia, ABC News, FilmInk magazine and The Daily Telegraph. He has also presented lectures across Australia as part of the Australian Decorative & Fine Arts Societies. His experience within the auction industry and outside as an art dealer provides a rounded perspective of the art market and art history.


Leigh will introduce the origins of art in Australia following white settlement, then focus on the earliest, most influential Australian women artists of the late 19th century. He will discuss the struggle of female artists against their limited social, cultural & political roles following Federation. The earliest professional female artists in Australia were employees of editorials such as The Bulletin & Home Magazine, until the rise of Modern Art saw the mass exodus of prospective female artists who sought training in Europe in the early 20th century. Leigh will track their experiences and triumphant return as pioneers of Australian Modernism. Leigh will look at Post War & Mid Century Artists, and the influential collectives they associated with such as the Heide Circle and the Sydney Charm School. He will highlight the early female abstract artists of the 1950s & 1960s; a style that was introduced to Australia predominantly by female migrants escaping war-torn Europe. Finally, he will assess the influence of Indigenous women artists of shaping Contemporary art in Australia.

Jane Malthus

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 9 October 2023 – 6.00pm

Dr Jane Malthus is a former Clothing and Textile Sciences and Design academic, and a dress historian and curator. Historical, social and cultural intersections and implications of dress and textiles worn and used by nineteenth and twentieth century New Zealanders are at the heart of her research practice.  She has published papers and chapters on topics including settler dress, dress reform, fur, lace, exhibition design, and co-curation, and is Honorary Curator of the Dress Collection at Otago Museum. A member of the Eden Hore Collection steering group and one of its patrons, she has been involved with that collection since the 1980s. She is currently a member of the Board of iD Dunedin Fashion.


The Eden Hore Collection comprises 200+ New Zealand extravagant designer dresses from the 1970s, now owned by the Central Otago District Council (CODC). Collected by a sheep and cattle farmer living near Naseby from the designers or retail stores, it has attracted many visitors to ‘Glenshee’ over the years. From the “why?” question to the “what next?” question, Jane will explain the collection and how they hope to show it in the future.

Gillian Hovell

Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 13 November 2023 – 6.00pm

Gillian Hovell gained a BA (Hons) in Latin and Ancient History, Exeter University, and then branched out into archaeology. She is an ex-BBC, lecturer for the British Museum and York University, and an award-winning writer and author who specialises in relating the ancient world to our modern lives, in person, in the field, on line and in the media (most recently on Radio 4). Publications include Visiting the Past: A guide to finding and understanding Britain’s Archaeology and Roman Britain. Forthcoming are Latin Yesterday, Today and For Ever, and A Mediterranean Tour: Not just a Load of Old Stones. Gillian teaches adult education courses in Latin, archaeology and ancient history and has publicly lectured widely and passionately, on cruises and tours and for museums such as the British Museum & Ashmolean, national press, universities, literary festivals, and diverse societies including Classical Associations, the U3A and the National Trust.


A tour of the Mediterranean is a visit into the past; ancient sites are littered with ruined architecture, and museums are full of works of art testifying to once great civilisations. Explore who those civilisations were and how they fit together into a ‘big picture’. Find out how you can you identify whose art or architecture are whose, and why their self-expression is so distinctive. Learn what to expect from cultures’ sites and how to find the special details that thrill archaeologists. You’ll never look at ancient sites in the same way again …      

Supporting the Arts

The Arts Society Wellington is one of the sponsors of Artsplash, Wellington’s annual primary and intermediate school arts festival, a week-long festival that brings together thousands of primary and intermediate school children from throughout the region to celebrate and perform dance, drama, music, visual arts and wearable art in one of the city’s premium venues. We have also supported The New Zealand Portrait Gallery to enable it to bring students from lower decile schools in the Wellington region to view the Gallery’s exhibitions.

Contact The Arts Society Wellington


Chair  :  Robyn Vavasour /
Vice Chair  :  Karin Beatson /
Treasurer  :  Julian Proctor /
Membership Secretary  :  Denise Almao /
Committee  :  Jane Kirkcaldie, Belinda Langford, Richard Eats, Penney Moir, Lucia Tubbs