Gallery Traditions

As part of celebrating the portrait of June, Lady Hillary, the Welcome Swallow Gallery invites the first people who enter the gallery each morning to perform a short unveiling ceremony, opening the curtains that were drawn at the conclusion of the previous day. 

Pictured below are two young art collectors in the making. The Gallery thanks them for participating in this tradition that will continue until early next year when the portrait will be located at its permanent home at the Auckland Museum as part of the national archive in the Sir Edmund Hillary collection. 

Pictures from the unveiling of the June, Lady Hillary portrait

Lady June and Mark Sainsbury

David Reeves - Head of Collections, Auckland Museum

Artist Rebecca Dowman-Ngapo (and daughter, Kaea)

Tom Scott

MC Mark Sainsbury

The Griffiths Duo

Welcome Swallow Gallery: Portrait of June, Lady Hillary - A very special day

M E D I A   C O V E R A G E

A superb short film of this event made by Nimbus Media can be found on our Facebook page:

and also on our instagram page at:

F U L L  C O V E R A G E  (A L L  SP E E C H E S)

can be found on the Gallery YouTube channel at:

a digital news media story is at:

Over 120 guests packed the Welcome Swallow Gallery to participate in the much anticipated unveiling of the portrait of June, Lady Hillary by gallery artist Rebecca Dowman-Ngapo. Speeches were made by Clive Gilson, Chair of the New Zealand Hillary Centenary Steering Committee, Board Chair and Chief Executive  of the Achieving Change for Children Charitable Trust, Dr. Dorothy Gilson, artist Rebecca Dowman-Ngapo, David Reeves, Head of Collections at Auckland Museum and finally by Tom Scott, author and film-maker. The event was expertly MC'd by Broadcaster, Mark Sainsbury who also thanked the event sponsors, Ebbett Audi.

Before and after the official proceedings, guests enjoyed special music instrumentation from Martin Griffiths (Cello) and Celia Griffiths (violin). Lunchtime food was provided by "Prof's @ Woodlands", served by Waikato University Hillary Scholarship students, Isabella MacDonald, Fletcher Moles, Tara Given and Georgia Robcke.

The portrait that was unveiled by Lady June's daughters, Robyn Mulgrew and Susan Hayman  received universal praise for the manner in which it captured the essence of Lady June's character. After being on display at the Welcome Swallow Gallery, the portrait that has been gifted to the Auckland Museum will be relocated where it will enter the national archive as part of the Hillary collection.

Chair of the New Zealand Hillary Centenary Steering Committee and Welcome Swallow Trustee, Professor Clive Gilson saw this occasion as an important part of the Gallery’s contribution to both history and art.

“Sir Edmund Hillary’s life left an enormous legacy for New Zealand. His wife, June, Lady Hillary visited Antarctica three times; took groups of women to Nepal to trek through the Himalayas and through the work of the Himalayan Trust in New Zealand spent many years working on raising funds for Nepal. When Sir Ed was the High Commissioner to India she also ran many of the committees that underpinned the work of the commission. Lady June is a formidable figure across the New Zealand landscape, so this portrait is a significant contribution to capturing her importance to the nation”. 

Lady June receiving flowers from Gallery Volunteer, Heather Allan,

Artists and Subject embrace

Lady June and Lady June

Subject with artist, Rebecca Dowman-Ngapo

Lady June with daughters Susan Hayman and Robyn Mulgrew

A very special relationship

Second left, Auckland Museum CEO David Gaimster addresses the private gathering

Portrait of June Lady Hillary now on display at the Auckland Museum

In October last year the Welcome Swallow Gallery presented a commissioned portrait of June Lady Hillary, the final act of the Sir Edmund Hillary Centenary Steering Committee. The portrait entitled In Her Presence by gallery artist Rebecca Dowman-Ngapo was on display from October until the first week of January this year. It was viewed and greatly admired by several thousand people before it was carefully transported to the Auckland Museum and into the Hillary Collection. As part of this important national archive, the portrait is also world heritage protected.

On 20th April, the portrait was placed for public viewing in the main atrium of the Museum. At a small private ceremony the occasion was addressed by the Museum CEO David Gaimster and David Reeves, Director of Collections and Research. Both welcomed this special watercolour portrait into the museum, noting its national importance. Also providing oversight were Shaun Higgins the museum's Pictorial Curator and Catherine Hammond Head of Documentary Heritage. The occasion was also addressed by gallery Trust member Dr. Clive Gilson and the artist herself, Rebecca Dowman-Ngapo. Both thanked the extensive range of people who made this project possible; from the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern to family and Trust volunteers. 

A common theme across all speeches was the way in which Rebecca had brilliantly captured her subject with a composition that has attracted widespread acclaim.  

Lady June, with Catherine Hammond, Head of Documentary and Heritage, for the first time, see the portrait in situ in the museum

The artist and her work


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