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Who was Hundertwasser?

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was one of the most celebrated artists to come out of Europe in the 20th Century. He is the most famous artist in the German-speaking world. He was acclaimed for his work with colour and mosaics, and became especially famed for his conversions of industrial buildings into works of art in Europe and Japan.

Hundertwasser spent most of the last 30 years of his life living and working in Northland and became a New Zealand citizen.
Click here for a full biography of Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

What has Hundertwasser got to do with Whangarei?

For much of the last 30 years of his life, Hundertwasser lived at Kaurinui, not far from Kawakawa (55km North of Whangarei). He so loved Northland and New Zealand that wherever he went in the world, he kept his watch to New Zealand time.

In 1993 Hundertwasser was invited to select a building in Whangarei which would be suitable for one of his world famous architectural transformations. He said the former Northland Harbour Board building at the Town Basin would be ideal to turn into a work of art.

Hundertwasser made a number of visits to the Town Basin to study the building, and sketched his ideas to doctor the building’s architecture along the lines of previous projects which made works of art of incineration and heating plants, railway stations and warehouses in Europe and Japan.

These same sketches were retrieved from the Hundertwasser Non-Profit Foundation’s archives to create the architectural drawings and plans for the proposed Hundertwasser Art Centre.

What do we know about Hundertwasser's life in New Zealand?

Friedensreich Hundertwasser in New Zealand

1973: Hundertwasser travels to New Zealand on the occasion of a Museum travelling exhibition, organised by Hertha Dabbert, in Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin. Tours Bay of Islands with his new friend artist Joseph Kelliher, loves what he feels and experiences. Three years later purchases a farm from the Shortridge family at the Bay of Islands. The purchase includes one retired old horse, a happy cow and chickens.

1974: Paints the Conservation Week poster for the 1974 Conservation Week Campaign in New Zealand and is awarded a citation for his significant contribution to the cause of conservation in New Zealand from the Nature Conservation Council.

1976: After having sailed his ship Regentag across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal to the Pacific, Hundertwasser sails on board the Regentag from Tahiti via Rarotonga to New Zealand and arrives in Auckland on November 25. Beginning in this year Hundertwasser is busy to restore territories to nature on the farm in Kaurinui Valley. He starts to plant indigenous trees, more than 100,000 over the next few years, creates canals, ponds and water purification plants. He utilises solar and water energy, uses the humus toilet and researches recycling methods.

1977: Following two accidents, spends two months in Kawakawa hospital in New Zealand.

1979: Designs the book Ao Tea Roa edited by Hans Brockstedt reflecting his life and work in Kaurinui valley.

1981: Proposes a series of annual postage stamps of Modern Art in New Zealand to the Postmaster-General Warren Cooper at the parliament house in Wellington on April 14. The purpose is to honour New Zealand painters and graphic artists and to promote New Zealand as a home for culture and contemporary art. Hundertwasser’s approach is rejected.

1983: Founds a committee for the preservation of the old Kawakawa Post Office, New Zealand. Designs a flag for New Zealand, the Koru, an unfurling fern, and writes the manifesto “A Flag of Our Own”.

1986: 1,000 green Koru-flags flown in New Zealand; great interest shown by the population, press and in Parliament. Hundertwasser is granted New Zealand citizenship on November 7.

1988: Presents his project and model for a Māori House Pa and National Monument on the waterfront of Wellington, New Zealand.

1990: Spends the spring in New Zealand, lectures on ecology, environment and architecture at Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Auckland and Blenheim for the “Living Treasure Programme” and participates in a 30-minute TV film produced by Telecom for NZ Television.

1997: Short trip to the Urupukapuka Bay in New Zealand on board the “La Giudecca”, a small steel ship imported from Venice.

1999: Reconstruction work for the new Kawakawa Public Toilet. 2000 Dies on February 19, in the Pacific, on board of Queen Elizabeth 2. He is buried in harmony with nature on his land in New Zealand, in the Garden of the Happy Dead, under a tulip tree.

[Provided by Hundertwasser Non-Profit Foundation, Vienna, March 2011]

What does Hundertwasser's name mean?

Born Friedrich Stowasser, Hundertwasser developed his artistic skills very early. After the war, he spent three months at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. At this time he began to sign his art as Hundertwasser instead of Stowasser.

His adopted surname is based on the translation of “sto” (the Slavic word for “one hundred”) into German. The name Friedensreich has a double meaning as “Peaceland” or “Peacerich” (in the sense of “peaceful”).

The other names he chose for himself, Regentag and Dunkelbunt, translate to “Rainy day” and “Darkly multicoloured”. His name Friedensreich Hundertwasser means, “Peace-Kingdom Hundred-Water”.