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Jim Wheeler - Image by Sam Hartnett

Jim Wheeler

Jim Wheeler is an artist predominantly concerned with nature. In particular, he is interested in mankind’s placement within the environmental system – the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living organisms. Wheeler’s crafted sculpture reflects these dynamics, his work focusing on plant communities. Wheeler studied art and biology at The University of North Carolina. He then completed a two-year apprenticeship at the Johnson Atelier in Princeton, New Jersey. The techniques he learnt during this time enabled him to help re-establish bronze casting in New Zealand at Art Works Studio. Wheeler has been a full-time sculptor since 1989.
Jim Wheeler · 'Form of Nature'

Born in Wadesboro North Carolina, the son of a professional forester, Jim Wheeler describes himself as an ‘amateur botanist’, studying both art and biology at university. His interest in plants and how plant communities evolve, continues to inform his sculptural practice today.

Jim Wheeler graduated BA with Honours at the University of North Carolina, before becoming an apprentice at the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in the 1970s. In 1981 he immigrated to New Zealand to help set up the Art Works sculpture foundry.

A member of Medal Artists New Zealand, his reputation as one of the country’s foremost bronze sculptors has led to a number of significant commissions, including the NZ Olympic Academy Leonard A. Cuff Medal, The Arts Foundation of NZ Governors’ Medal and the America’s Cup Medal.

Jim Wheeler’s large-scale commissions are grounded in nature and exemplify both his skill as a sculptor and his passion for environmental issues. One such commission, Pohutukawa/Rata Descending, measures 2.5 metres across and can be seen, suspended mid-air, in the atrium of 280 Queen Street, Auckland. The installation commemorates the vanished natural environment. It recalls the time before Auckland was built, when Queen Street was still a streambed. On the bush-clad hillside, trees would have overhung this stream and a ‘falling’ Pohutukawa or Rata flower would have been a commonplace sight.

A full-time art practitioner since 1989, Wheeler has been exhibiting for over thirty years. His work is held in The British Museum, London; The Weatherspoon Art Museum, USA; The Auckland Museum and The Wallace Arts Trust. He has been included in major New Zealand sculpture exhibitions including Sculpture in the Gardens, Auckland Botanic Gardens, Brick Bay Sculpture Park, Sculpture Onshore and Sculpture on the Gulf.


2015 – Nature as Metaphor, ARTIS Gallery, Auckland
2010 – Stalking Nature, ARTIS Gallery, Auckland


1980-1979 Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
1975-1973 University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art (cum laude)
1973-1971 University of the South Sewanee, Tennessee, USA.


2015 – Nature as Metaphor, August 2015
2010 – Stalking Nature, ARTIS 2010
1997 – The Presence of Trees, Ferner Galleries, Auckland
1997 – Sacred Sights, The Drawings Gallery, Auckland
1990 – Pumphouse, Auckland
1986 – Recent Bronzes, RKS Art, Auckland
1982 – Landscapes, Monuments and Variations on a Torn Circle, RKS Art, Auckland
1981 – Diametrical Bronzes, RKS Art, Auckland


2003 New Zealand Olympic Academy, Leonard A. Cuff Medal
2002 Arts Foundation of New Zealand, Governors’ Award designer
2000- 2001 Kanuka Bonsai, private commission
2000 XXX America’s Cup 2000 NZ, Winner & Contender’s Medal
1998, 97, 95, 94 PA Consulting Group. Annual Corporate gift
1997 Scott’s College, Wellington, Information Technology Award
1996 Genesis: Courtyard bronzes of volcanic islands and lava flows, Hobson Gardens, Auckland
1995 Battle for the Solomons, commemorative WWII medal, Ferner Galleries, Auckland
1990 Craig Steele Trophy, Auckland Grammar School.


1999 British Museum purchase of medallion, Balanced Change, for
the exhibition Size immaterial: hand held sculptures of the 1990s.
1996: Research grant from Manukau Institute of Technology to develop alternative bronze casting process.
1992: QEII Arts Council Grant to build a bronze casting studio.