Guy Ngan

b. 1926d. 2017

Also known as:

  • 顏國鍇

Guy Ngan 顏國 鍇 was a second generation Chinese-New Zealander born in Wellington. In 1928, his parents moved with their two sons from Newtown, Wellington to Guangzhou, China. Following the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Ngan’s parents sent their two sons back to New Zealand in 1938.

From the age of fourteen, Ngan supported himself through work woodcarving and furniture-making. At 17, he began night school at Wellington Technical College with sculptor Alex Fraser. In 1951 he travelled to London to continue his education at Goldsmiths College, the Royal College of Art and, with a scholarship, at the British School in Rome.

After working in the UK and travelling to Scandinavia and North America, Ngan was enticed to return to New Zealand by Gordon Wilson, the Government Architect. Ngan was employed in the Ministry of Works Architectural Division from 1956-1960, followed by ten years as Associate Partner in the Australasian firm Stephenson & Turner.

Ngan continued to develop his artistic practice during this time. In 1970 he became a full-time artist and designer, completing solo exhibitions at galleries throughout New Zealand.

Between 1944 and 2012 Ngan created over forty public woodcarvings, sculptures and murals across New Zealand with work also commissioned for the Asian Development Bank (Manila), Air New Zealand Tahiti and the United Nations Building (New York). He exhibited frequently at The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington, where he had been a member since the 1940s. He was Director of the Academy between 1976 and 1986, championing the creative endeavours of his fellow artists.

The solo exhibition Guy Ngan: Journey: Aluminium Panel, Tiki Hands, and Anchor Stones was hosted by the City Gallery Wellington in 2006. This was followed, posthumously in 2019, by two major retrospective exhibitions: Guy Ngan: Habitation at The Dowse Art Museum and Guy Ngan: Either Possible or Necessary at Artspace Aotearoa.

His service to the arts was recognised with an OBE in 1983 and, at the age 86, Ngan was inducted into The Massey University College of Creative Arts Hall of Fame in 2012.