The official website of educator Jack C Richards

Jack Richards’ Art Collection Achieves Record Prices in Auction

Click image to view catalogue…

Following the closing of the Jack Richards’ Decorative Arts Gallery in the Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne, leading New Zealand auction house “Webb’s” offered to arrange a series of auctions of selected items from Jack’s collection.

The third of auction series was held in Auckland on September 10th and as with the previous two auctions attracted both national and international buyers.

The introduction to the catalogue of the September auction included the following interview with Jack…

Firstly, could you provide some background on yourself, and your career?

I have had an active academic career in the Asia Pacific in the field of applied linguistics and language teaching. I worked primarily in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong-Kong, and the USA. In addition, a parallel career in the field of educational publishing. I published many books in my academic discipline, as well as books for students, the latter having sold over 50 million copies.

Many of our readers will recognise you from our auction, à la poursuite de la beauté The Jack Richards Collection of Lalique Glass, held last July. Could you give some insight into your fascination with René Lalique?

In the 1980s, on a teaching assignment in Cairo, I came across a Lalique vase in a local antique shop. This began my fascination with art glass, but particularly the work of Lalique. Over the years I gradually assembled a collection of over 100 vases, my favourites of which are kept in my Wellington apartment.

Rene Lalique is also known for his production of jewellery, perfume bottles and lighting, among other things, why did you focus on collecting vases?

I think the vases enabled Lalique to showcase his talents and creativity as an artist.  Many of them are good examples of how he was able to choose a design that complemented the shape of the vase, and they make stunning display items.

Would you be able to give a brief background on how your collection started out? Was Lalique the starting point?

No, Lalique came much later. I acquired my first item, a piece of Chinese blue and white porcelain, as a student. Later when I worked in Indonesia and Singapore, I developed an interest in textiles and ceramics. My academic and publishing career has also taken me to many different countries including China, Korea, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico. In each country that I visited, I have been unable to resist exploring galleries and art centres to familiarise myself with local art and cultural practices. 

Many collectors have a particular piece or experience that kick started their interest in a certain subject. Would this apply to you?

Yes, I think that has often been my experience. For instance, my interest in Chinese robes was prompted by seeing some magnificent examples that were displayed throughout the Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong. A number of galleries in Hollywood Road had good collections of robes, and I bought quite a few from them. Some years later when I was exploring antique shops in Seoul, a dealer introduced me to traditional Korean robes.

Your collection is truly breath-taking in scale, materiality, and global diversity. Was this always a goal of yours?

Not really, it was simply a consequence of my own curiosity and the opportunities that were available to me through my work and travels. Had I had more opportunities to live and work in other parts of the world such as Scandinavia or Eastern Europe, I am sure I would have developed an appreciation of the arts in these regions.

From working on this catalogue, and part II of your collection, auctioned in March, our team noticed your interest in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods. What draws your attention to these in general?

I do admire the bold and simple design elements of Art Deco and also the naturalist elements in Art Nouveau, even though I have not had the chance to add many good examples to my collection.

 A highlight of the catalogue is your wonderful collection of textiles. How did you start to build this element of your collection?

After completing my Ph.D. in Quebec City in Canada, I was anxious to live somewhere that had no winter seasons and was invited to teach for a year at a university in Central Java. The student population included many from Southeast Asia, such as Flores and Timor. These students often brought examples of traditional textiles with them to sell to help pay for their studies. In this way I came to understand and appreciate the extraordinary range of ikat textiles crafted in different parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Your textiles are quite diverse, not only geographically, but also in use. For instance formal wedding attire, military attire, to a firefighters robe. Was building the collection this way important to you?

Actually, most of the items I have collected over the years were acquired by chance. My guiding principle is simply — is it something that stands out in some way, visually and artistically? This could be a simple textile that I purchased for $20 in Guatemala, or something that I couldn’t resist buying and which cost me $20,000. Sometimes dealers have contacted me with something they think I might like. But more often I may see something somewhere that attracts me, that I think would complement other items in my collection.

In the catalogue, the traditional nature of the robes is then contrasted with several different contemporary Korean ceramicists. We love how they take traditional techniques, and place a contemporary spin on them, but what do you like about them?

Korea has a long tradition in ceramics and has influenced ceramics in other countries, such as Japan. Within Korea there are large ceramicist communities, who often blend ancient and modern designs. Some of them have a charming folk art character that gives them a special appeal to me.

Another highlight of the catalogue is the woodblock prints, especially those by Paul Jacoulet. What attracts to you this type of art form?

I knew nothing of Jacoulet’s art until I saw an exhibition of his prints in the Honolulu Academy of Fine Arts when I was living in Hawaii. I was instantly smitten, and later a dealer in Hong Kong began to source prints for me. Jacoulet has a unique style that draws on traditional Japanese features but makes them his own. He consequently built up a large following both in Japan and internationally during his lifetime.

In any of the topics we have discussed today, were there certain pieces you always wanted to acquire, to ‘complete’ the collection so to speak?

I guess I always wanted to acquire good examples of any particular art form that I collect. So if I came across something that would complement a particular category within my collection I would often see if I could find ways of acquiring it.

What advice would you have for those starting a new collection, or those building an existing one?

I never set out to assemble a collection as such, so the items I have collected are a somewhat random set of pieces. What I think links them is the reflection of skills and creativity of the maker, whether that be an amateur who dabbles in art as a hobby or an established artist with a specific agenda. Also, that they are all visually striking.

For someone wanting to put together a small collection of pieces, I would suggest starting modestly at first and collecting pieces that work well together. Over time, one develops a better sense of what is worth collecting and what is not. Over the years I have discarded many items that I liked but did not pass the test of time. On the other hand, some pieces that were acquired 50 years ago still gives me as much pleasure as they did when I first purchased them.

What prompted your decisions to part with many items from your collection?

Some years ago, to share my collection with the wider public, I funded the addition of a gallery to the Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne, which attracted the interest of many art lovers both locally and nationally. Recently, however, the museum felt that the space could be better used to showcase art with a more local connection. Instead of placing my collection in long-term storage, it seemed sensible to allow others to have the opportunity to own some of the items from it, hence the current series of auctions.

Lastly, if we were to ask to you to a pick a favourite from this catalogue, what would it be?

That is a difficult question, but perhaps the Deco sculpture – Lady with Deer – would be one of my favourites.

New Owners for Tiromoana


Earlier in 2023 Jack Richards and Won Gyu Moon decided to part with Tiromoana – for over 30 years their spectacular beach-view property and garden near Gisborne — in view of changed priorities about how and where would like to spend their summers. At the same time Jack’s sister Gillian and her husband Colin who oversaw Tiromoana as well as their own neighbouring property, made a similar decision and both properties were listed with a local real estate agent.

Jack and Won Gyu were delighted to hand over their property to the new owners in July, a distinguished lawyer and Chief District Court Judge and his wife, who are looking forward to becoming the new guardians of the property.

Jack and Won Gyu have meanwhile acquired an apartment in Sydney to serve as their base when they visit Australia.

Viola to Vermont

Dr. Richards is sponsored the participation of Alexander McFarlane in the Yellow Barn Festival. Alexander was one of a select group of international musicians invited to take part in this prestigious and intensive five-week chamber music festival.

To celebrate, Dr, Richards, Moon Won Gyu, and the NZSO held an evening soiree on June 13th. The evening featured a short performance by Alexander and provided an opportunity to connect with other NZSO supporters and staff.

Piano Recitals at Tiromoana

Piano recitals by 4 student pianists to be held at Dr. Richards Gisborne residence in July, August, September and October 2022 featuring Tony Yan Tong Chen, Ben Kennedy, William Perry and Otis Prescott Mason.

Tony Chen Lin & Long Nguyen at Tiromoana

A recital in Gisborne on the 3rd July 2022 by pianist Tony Chen Lin and bassoonist Long Nguyen:

WEBER Bassoon Concerto in F major, Op.75
SCHUMANN Kreisleriana Op.16
ELGAR Romance for Bassoon and Piano, Op.62
TANSMAN Suite for Bassoon and Piano

Support for Cultural Activities

Jack Richards is an active supporter of musical and cultural initiatives and activities in New Zealand. In 2014 he received the prestigious Award for Patronage 2014, by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, acknowledging his support for music and the arts.

Past and current support includes;

  • Benefactor of the National Music Centre, to be built in Wellington
  • Patron and sponsor of the New Zealand National Guitar Competition
  • Grants to the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation to support young New Zealand opera singers
  • Co-sponsor of the Composer in Residence Program at the New Zealand School of Music
  • Provision of travel scholarships for semi-finalists in the Chamber Music New Zealand School Chamber Music Competition
  • Sponsor of three CDs by New Zealand musicians – Tony Chen Lin, Lixin Zhang and Tony Yan Tong Chen
  • Sponsored book on the life of composer Jack Body
  • Numerous commissions for New Zealand composers, including Jack Body, Jenny McLeod, John Psathas
  • Commissioning of piano concertos by Gareth Farr, Lyell Cresswell, and Gao Ping which were performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
  • Scholarships and financial support for students in the New Zealand School of Music and in the School of Applied Language Studies, Victoria University
  • Financing for the production of a video of Jenny Macleod’s opera “Hohepa”
  • Sponsorship of participation by young New Zealand musicians in the Edith Fischer Academy, Blonay Switzerland
  • Provision of scholarships for students enrolled in the Toihokura program in contemporary Maori Art, Gisborne
  • Initiation of the Ruanuku Award for excellent in contemporary Maori Art, enabling the Tairāwhiti Museum to acquire a major collection of art by local artists
  • Support for the Tairāwhiti Arts Festival, Gisborne
  • Purchase of works by local and national artists for the collection of Tairāwhiti Museum
  • Funding of an award in the Te Ha Art Awards competition at Tairāwhiti museum
  • Funding of improvements to the Tairāwhiti Museum
  • Funding of a new gallery at the Tairāwhiti Museum – the Jack C Richards Decorative Arts Gallery – the only gallery of its kind in any New Zealand Museum
  • Grant to support upgrades at Whangara Marae
  • The major private sponsor for renovations of the Toko Toru Tapu Church at Manutuke – one of the most important buildings of its kind in New Zealand due to the significance of its carved panels
  • One of the major private sponsors of renovations to the Gisborne War Memorial Theater
  • Grants to support the local chapter of Chamber Music New Zealand
  • Commissioning of art pieces by Gisborne artists for installation in the Gisborne War Memorial Theater
  • Significant contributor to renovations to the Dawson Field Theater, Gisborne
  • Patron and major sponsor of the Gisborne International Music Competition
  • Sponsor of a series of annual summer concerts in support of the Gisborne International Music Competition
  • Sponsor a series of winter concerts in the Tairāwhiti Museum, Gisborne, featuring student musicians from the New Zealand School of Music.
  • Commissioning of sculptures for public spaces in Gisborne

Closing the Jack C Richards Decorative Arts Gallery

The reasoning behind my decision to close down the Jack C Richards Decorative Arts Gallery at The Tairāwhiti Museum, Gisborne

 On 23 December 2011 the Museum and I signed an agreement that the museum trust would build an extension, to be known as ‘the Richards Gallery’ to be funded by Jack Richards at a cost of some $350,000.

The agreement stated that the gallery would primarily be used for the purpose of housing and displaying objects on loan from Jack Richards’ collection, but also items from the Museum’s own collection and touring exhibitions. The agreement also specified that items from the Richards collection would be displayed in a different section of the gallery from items from the museum collection. The MOU states:

“The museum may exhibit items other than Jack Richards collection for up to four months each year in the general exhibition component of the gallery”.

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Sponsored Activities in Support of Music and the Arts 2021

  • January: Recitals by Samuel Woosol Jeon – 17 yrs old (piano) & Christine Yesol Jeon – 13 yrs old (cello) at Tiromoana.
  • March: Piano recital by Lixin Zhang, at Waikato University, Hamilton.
  • April: Piano recital by Tony Yan Tong Chen at Tiromoana.
  • April: Piano recital by Jian Liu at Tiromoana.
  • July: Vocal recital by William King (baritone) at Tiromoana.
  • July: Concert by students from the Waikato University School of Music – at Tairawhiti Museum, Gisborne
  • Further events to be confirmed

Other activities:

  • Scholarships for students in the Toihokura Program in Contemporary Maori Arts
  • Patron of the Gisborne International Music Competition                                  
  • Support for the Tairawhiti Arts Festival 2021
  • Grant to the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation to support New Zealand musicians
  • Sponsorship of a CD to be recorded by pianist Tony Yan Tong Chen for Rattle Records
  • Jack C Richards Travel Scholarship, provided to all finalists in the Chamber Music New Zealand School Chamber Music Competition

Activities in Support of Musicians

Dr. Richards was active in support of musicians and cultural activities in 2020. Primary among these activities were:

  • Sponsorship of piano recitals by two New Zealand musicians whose studies overseas were disrupted due to the Corona Virus
  • September 6th, Piano recital by Tony Chen at St Andrew’s Church, Wellington
  • October 20th, all Chopin recital by Lixin Zhang at St Andrews Church, Wellington.

A series of house concerts were also organized at Tiromoana in Gisborne:

  • August 30th: Piano recital by Nicholas Kovacev.
  • September 6th: Recital by Will King (baritone) and Nicholas Kovacev at Tiromoana
  • October 20th: Piano recital by Liam Furey
  • November 22nd: Pianist Ya-Ting Liou performed Beethoven’s Diabelli Variatios

Support for other cultural activities included:

  • Support for the Tairawhiti Arts Fair, Gisborne (October)
  • Support for renovations of the kitchen at Tairawhiti Museum, Gisborne
  • Support for the Gisborne International Music Competition (November)
  • Grant to the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation to support New Zealand musicians in the UK
  • Sponsorship of a concert to honour New Zealand composer John Psathias (December)
  • Sponsorship of the New Zealand Classical Guitar Competition (December)
  • Sponsorship of a CD to be recorded by Tony Chen for Rattle Records (December)

Concerts in support of the Gisborne International Music Competition 2019/2020

Dr. Richards sponsored a number of fundraising concerts over the New Zealand summer.

On December 15th 2019 at the Lawson Field Theater in Gisborne three outstanding  New Zealand pianists Maria Mo, Lixin Zhang and Tony Tay Tong Chen performed at three concerts:

  • Concert 1:  With music by Ravel, Albeniz, Manuel de Falla, Granados, Marquez
  • Concert 2: With music by Brahms (the complete waltzes), Beethoven, Schubert, and Chopin
  • Concert 3: With music by Berg, Scriabin, Janacek Prokofiev, and Psathas

 On Sunday January 26th 2020 Baritone William King with associate artist Bruce Greenfield (piano) presented the following programme at Tiromoana:

  • Kaddisch — Ravel
  • Dichterliebe — Schumann
  • Silent Noon — Vaughan Williams
  • King David — Howells
  • Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo — Mozart, Cosi Fan tutte

On Sunday February 9th  2020 Sydney pianist Paul Cheung played at Tiromoana. His programme was:

  • F. Chopin The complete Preludes Op. 28
  • F. Kreisler (arr. S. Rachmaninoff) Liebesleid
  • S. Rachmaninoff Sonata No. 2 in Bb minor, Op. 36