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The Tauranga Art Gallery Trust (TAGT) is delighted to announce the appointment of Stephen Cleland as the new Director of the Tauranga Art Gallery (TAG), effective from 11 January 2021. The appointment follows an in-depth and extensive recruitment process carried out by the Board and a team of industry and HR experts.

Cleland brings a wealth of experience and personal ambition to the role, having worked in the competitive New Zealand art scene in a professional capacity for 15 years both as a curator and in leadership positions. He joins TAG from the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi at Victoria University of Wellington, where he has held the position of Curator since 2015.


Speaking about his new role Cleland said he is “attracted to the scale of Tauranga Art Gallery and the opportunity to lead a dedicated team and an important regional art organisation.” He adds: “Tauranga is a city that will only continue to rise in its national standing and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to contribute to the cultural fabric of the city through developing an ambitious programme with leading international and New Zealand-based artists”.

Initially growing up in the Waikato, Cleland studied at the University of Auckland in the early< 2000s, gaining bachelor’s degrees in Art History and Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts. His passion for exhibition making then led to curatorial roles, initially through co-founding and comanaging Window Gallery at the University of Auckland, a project space running concurrent online and site-based contemporary art programmes in a purpose-built gallery. He then undertook curatorial and directorial positions at Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland and The Physics Room, Christchurch, prior to returning to Tāmaki to commence further postgraduate study. He was Acting Curator, Contemporary Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki from 2014- 2015 and moved to Wellington that year for the Adam Art Gallery role.

Cleland will relocate to Tauranga in early January and is joined by his wife Sonya Lacey, a leading contemporary artist who was recently nominated for the prestigious Walters Prize at Auckland Art Gallery. He is also looking forward to being closer to family in the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty and exploring the region that will become his home in this exciting new chapter in his career.


Speaking on behalf of TAGT, Rosemary Protheroe, Interim Chair commented: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Stephen to Tauranga Art Gallery – his combination of skills, experience, connections and warm personality is perfect for the Gallery. The Board look forward to working with Stephen and the wider team, to take TAG to the next level in terms of creativity and engagement.”

The Board would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mary Stewart, our departing Interim Director, for her commitment, innovation and sterling work in supporting the Gallery. We wish her well in her next endeavours.

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