Born in a manger, found in a barn: Te Papa offers assistance to Futuna Chapel

Over a decade ago Jim Allen’s carved Christ figure was stolen from John Scott’s architectural icon, the Futuna Chapel in Wellington.

Its whereabouts remained a mystery until it was recovered from an abandoned Taranaki farm  last week. The New Zealand Police returned the Christ figure to The Friends of Futuna Charitable Trust at a moving ceremony at the Chapel earlier today, Thursday 6 September.

In recognition of the importance of the chapel as a national treasure Te Papa has agreed to assist the Trust by holding the figure in storage until it goes back on permanent display in the chapel next March. While in temporary storage at the Museum, the Trust will arrange a conservation assessment and any restorative work that may be required.

NZ Police carrying Jim Allen's Christ figure into Futuna Chapel. Photo: Phil Reid, Fairfax NZ.

NZ Police carrying Jim Allen’s Christ figure into Futuna Chapel. Photo: Phil Reid, Fairfax NZ.

An icon of New Zealand architecture, the now deconsecrated chapel was designed by one of the first ‘modernist’ Maori architects, John Scott. The architect invited contemporary artist Jim Allen to collaborate on several aspects of the chapel’s design, including the coloured windows – a key feature of the building — and, of course, the crucifix.

‘Recovering the statue has been a goal of the Futuna Trust since it was established in 2003 to celebrate, restore and maintain the chapel, which is regarded as one of New Zealand’s modern architectural masterpieces.’ Nick Bevin, Wellington architect and chair of the Futuna Trust.

Te Papa currently has three important works by Jim Allen on public display on Level 5.

Sarah Farrar, Curator of Contemporary Art

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