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Wellington philanthropist Denis Adam dies

Denis Adam, CNZM, OBE, a major contributor to the arts in Wellington and New Zealand, died in hospital yesterday at the age of 94.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester acknowledged the philanthropy of Denis Adam and his wife Verna, particularly their generosity to the arts.

“The sector we know today would be quite different without their contributions. Many well-known institutions and awards bear their name, and more recently they donated to the planned Te Kōkī – the national centre of musical excellence, which will be based in Te Ngākau Civic Square.

“The New Zealand arts scene owes Denis a huge debt of gratitude, and he will be remembered as a pillar of the arts scene.”

According to his autobiography, Denis Adam was born in Berlin and educated in Scotland and England. He fought as a fighter-bomber pilot in the RAF during World War II under a New Zealand commanding officer, and after the war emigrated here.

He worked in a factory and service station before starting a career in insurance broking which brought him sufficient wealth to become a leading philanthropist.

Denis and Verna started to collect art in the 1960s. In 1975 they established the Adam Foundation to consolidate the ownership of this growing collection. The foundation’s activities then extended to support arts in general, and have tended to focus on emerging artists.

Their support includes the Adam Art Gallery and the Adam Concert Room at Victoria University of Wellington, the Adam Foundation Prize for Creative Writing, the Adam Portraiture Award and Exhibition, the Adam Chamber Music Festival, the NZSO National Youth Orchestra, the Adam Auditorium at City Gallery Wellington, and the Adam International Cello Competition.

In 2006, the couple were awarded the inaugural Award for Patronage to the Arts.

A private cremation will take place and a memorial service will be held at a later date.