About Elam

Welcome to Elam School of Fine Arts, New Zealand’s foremost fine arts school.

Associate Professor Peter Shand, Head of School, reflects on the importance of the Elam Grad Show in helping students understand what it means to develop an exhibition practice.
Image of historic Elam building.
Newton West School, which housed Elam's painting and sculpture studios after fire destroyed the former premises in 1949.



The "Elam School of Art and Design" was established 1889 following the generous bequest of Dr John Edward Elam, a patron of the arts. The School opened in 1890 in rooms located under the bell tower of what is now the Auckland City Art Gallery. The following 60 years saw Elam provide full-time and part-time art instruction to both children and adults.

On 15 January 1949 a fire destroyed the School and its library, and a year later the School finally came under the jurisdiction of the Auckland University College Council. The School’s shift into a more academic world was the catalyst for a number of new initiatives, including the development of an academic art library. Elam gained faculty status with the Chair in Fine Arts in 1961. The Bachelor of Fine Arts programme was established in 1967 and was the first fine arts bachelors degree in the country. 

During the 1950s Elam was housed at two sites – prefabricated buildings on the School’s former site in Symonds Street, and in the grounds of the former Newton West School in Grey Lynn. A new three-storey steel frame building on the current Whitaker Place site was eventually opened in 1962. However, with limited studio space and facilities, the School outgrew its available space in only three years. The University purchased the old Mansion Hotel, also in Whitaker Place, in 1967 and by 1979 the "brick mansion" and the "wooden mansion" were both occupied by the School.

When the numbers of students surged again in the early 1990s, a new four-storey building (the “Mondrian”) was finally built in 1995 alongside the steel frame building, and it was occupied in 1996. It has, however, proved impossible to move out of the "mansions" due to numbers of students and the demand for studio space. Postgraduate students have additional studio space in Elam B, close to the ClockTower in the centre of the City Campus. 

Meanwhile, Elam School of Fine Arts has built its reputation as the foremost art school in New Zealand, where many of the country’s best-known artists have begun their careers.

We celebrated 125 years of fine arts education at the University in 2015. 



Interior shot of the Elam library.
Elam Library

Facilities and Resources

The facilities at Elam are among the best in Australasia, offering:

  • Digital media hub with photographic, video, film and audio facilities and equipment
  • Screen printing, intaglio and lithography facilities
  • Photography studios, darkrooms and printing facilities
  • Wood, metal, foundry, casting and plastic fabrication workshops
  • Large format digital printing facilities and both powder and extrusion 3D printers
  • Ceramic kilns
  • Industrial spray booth

The Fine Arts Library holds a significant and wide-ranging collection of books, art databases and extensive online resources to support in-depth research. It also houses New Zealand’s largest collection of specialist monographs as well as all major historic and contemporary fine arts and design journals.

Visit the Fine Arts Library

Online student resources

Take a tour of Elam

Map of Creative Arts and Industries



Exterior image of the George Fraser Gallery.
George Fraser Gallery

Galleries and exhibition spaces

Elam students are encouraged to present work or curate public exhibitions at our student-centred, professional-standard galleries. 

George Fraser Gallery
The George Fraser Gallery, set in Albert Park, provides a public exhibiting space for Elam School of Fine Arts and is a valuable teaching resource for the professional presentation of artwork in the public arena.

Elam Projectspace Gallery
Elam Projectspace Gallery is located within the main Elam building. It presents a wide programme of exhibitions and events drawn from Elam's academic and International Artist in Residence programmes, along with staff and student research.

west. is an exhibition space located in the Creative Arts and Industries Student Centre, used to display work by current postgraduate students from across the faculty.

The Auckland Art Gallery, Artspace and Objectspace are also nearby and we maintain close connections with them. In addition, there are a number of artist-run spaces and dealer galleries in the city, on K Road, Upper Queen Street, Ponsonby and Newmarket, all of which are easily reached from the University. Not only do they give you a chance to see some of the most significant work being exhibited in New Zealand (some of it by Elam staff and/or graduates) but they are a vital part of the creative life of the city.