William McAloon, 1969-2012

William McAloon, 1969-2012

It is with great sadness that we share the news that our respected colleague and dear friend William McAloon passed away on Sunday 8 April.

William McAloon with Colin McCahon’s 'Northland panels', 1958.
William McAloon with Colin McCahon’s ‘Northland panels’, 1958.

William has been Curator Historical New Zealand Art at Te Papa since 2005. A key member of the art team, William was a superb curator, with a fine eye and a piercing intellect.

Over the years, William also worked as a curator at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and as a freelance curator, writer and art historian working with artists and institutions throughout New Zealand. He has a formidable and well-deserved reputation as a writer and art historian.

William was responsible for curating one of Te Papa’s best-loved exhibitions, Rita Angus: Life and Vision (with Jill Trevelyan) in 2008, which continues to tour venues around New Zealand. More recently he played an instrumental role in the exhibition Oceania: Early Encounters in 2011 and in developing a new approach to exhibiting the art collection on Level 5.

William’s legacy at Te Papa is marked also by a selection of remarkable New Zealand art works that he acquired for the national art collection. Art at Te Papa, the book that William edited about the history of art at the Museum, is a touchstone resource on Te Papa’s institutional history and New Zealand’s national art collection.

William is sorely missed by his friends and colleagues at Te Papa. Our deepest sympathy goes to William’s wife, Courtney, their families and friends.

Kua hinga tēnei rātā whakamarumaru o ngā taonga toi o te motu. He kanohi hōmiromiro, he ihumanea, he kaitiaki nō tōna pātaka iringa kōrero, kua kore. He toki tārai kōrero mō ngā toi o Aotearoa me ōna hītori, kua riro. Kāti rā, ‘He kokonga whare e kitea, he kokonga ngākau e kore e kitea’.

Moe mai rā, e te hoa.

This rātā tree, a shelter for the treasures of the nation has fallen. A keen eye for detail, intellectually brilliant, a curator without peer, is no more. A carver of words, an art historian has left us. It is said, ‘The corners of a house can be seen, but not so the corners of the heart’.

Sleep well, friend. Rest in peace.

Claudia Orange
Director Collections and Research
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa


  1. William, I was greatly impressed by you. From your speaking to our class when I was an art history and museum studies student, to being one of your colleagues at Te Papa, you were always so generous with your knowledge and time. Thank you William for giving so much to NZ Art History. You will be greatly missed.

  2. George Hubbard
    I ‘worked’ with William at ACAG on the messy KORURANGI show that opened the Gibbs new wing (Messy because I was still drinking heavily). Even though I couldn’t stand William I was aware that he tried his very best to juggle the institution, the artists and me to come up with a positive result. Without William there would have been no KORURANGI. Withoust Alexa there would have been no ACAG!
    I stopped doing Maori shows after that experience.

  3. Dear Margaret – the overwhelming ranges of emotions (including anger) experienced under such circumstances was very honestly and eloquently acknowledged by family and friends at William’s funeral. As a colleague, I think I can say our main emotion is one of extreme sadness.

  4. isnt anyone angry that he hurts his family and colleagues this way

    1. Yes, Margaret, no doubt, …and this is balanced but the hurt, his hurt, and for some at least his remarkable gifts to us.

  5. Such very sad news. I admired William enormously. His passing is a huge loss to the New Zealand Art community. My sincere condolences to Courtney and to William’s family.

  6. Very sorry to hear about William. I always learned from him. Sometimes in spite of him and sometimes in spite of me. But there was always the greatest respect for his knowledge and point of view.

  7. As a private citizen, and as a lover of the art you studied and loved and knew so well, William, I salute your fine and committed mind, and acknowledge the support and insights given so readily. Your deep love of our art and belief in its power shone into my life, and I hope always to carry its light. Farewell.

  8. Very sorry to hear this. My regards and good vibes to big bro Jim and the rest of the family.

  9. After finding out this morning the news is still sinking in. Since 2008 and the Life & Vision Exhibition, William has become a fantastic mentor and friend to us at the Estate of Rita Angus. I can’t imagine the future without his input.
    Our thoughts are with you

  10. My warmest wishes to his family & friends. A very sad loss to those that have had the lucky pleasure of knowing him. William, you will be missed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *