James Wallace was the millionaire businessman fighting for name suppression and claiming his innocence. Despite his many contributions to the Arts, James Wallace will be remembered for his multiple assault convictions.

He’s a nasty, entitled piece of work, and the men who took him to court deserve nothing but our admiration. It must have been a hellish experience for them to relive the times they were sexually assaulted.

He has been a fixture on the gay scene in Auckland for decades, as much as he was in the art world. When I spoke about this with a friend who now lives in London, they reminded me, “He was always chasing after one of us at the Staircase in Fort Street back in the 80s. I laughed in his face!”


I crossed paths with Wallace a few times over the last 40 years. I can remember going back to his house in Remuera in the early 80s, where he revealed his interest in a friend of mine who had made it clear that the feeling was not mutual.

As the years went by, I often saw him at gallery openings, theatre, and concerts, always with an attractive young man on his arm. I even went to his current home a couple of times as a hanger-on with more creative friends. When I told him that I had played in the garden there with the previous owners’ children a long time ago, he expressed no interest. I was clearly of no use to him.

I’m sure Wallace wasn’t born this way; he would have grown into it. The ease of access that his power and money gave him would have built his sense of entitlement and a feeling that he was above the law and could get away with anything.

He attracted many who needed his patronage. Lots of organisations in the art world benefitted from his money. He helped get a lot of projects off the ground with his funding, and I hope they got it unscathed.

He was never an officially out gay man. While everyone knew, it was never mentioned. Not uncommon for his generation, though; look at Hudson and Halls – a sly wink, but never a public statement.

I can’t help but wonder if he’d have become this monster had he been born 20 years later, in a world where he could have comfortably been out and could have found real love and companionship instead of a life alone in a massive mansion surrounded by the biggest (but, as a certain gallery curator acidy pointed out, ‘not the best’) collection of local art.

Would the chance to live openly and freely have made him a better person? Or would the money and power have still taken him down this path? I wonder why he simply didn’t pay for sex workers instead of assaulting people who came to him for help. Perhaps that shows that it was really the power he desired.

We can’t forget ‘the secondary characters’ in this miserable drama. Mika, Jevan Goulter, and his factotum Mustafa Yikar, helped him break the law and intimidate witnesses in an effort to save his reputation. Scum, like cream, rises – the difference is only obvious after some time.

Their reputations, too, are now firmly entwined with his – deservedly stained for the roles they played. But Wallace, who nowadays looks more like Gollum in a cravat than a millionaire philanthropist, will leave this life with a lasting reputation, but it is not the one he craved.

Article | Michael Stevens.