NZ’s fore­most con­tem­po­rary art mu­seum

Go Travel New Zealand - - Taranaki - by Anna McLaren & Kelly Loney

Aotearoa New Zealand is about to open the doors to its first and only mu­seum of con­tem­po­rary art. The Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery/Len Lye Cen­tre, with its curved ex­te­rior walls of mir­ror-like stain­less steel, will be the coun­try’s first ex­am­ple of des­ti­na­tion ar­chi­tec­ture linked to con­tem­po­rary art.


he lat­est ad­di­tion to the Govett-Brew­ster - the Len Lye Cen­tre - is New Zealand’s first in­sti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to a sin­gle artist, the pi­o­neer­ing film­maker and ki­netic sculp­tor, Len Lye.

Set in the coastal city of New Ply­mouth, over­looked by the ma­jes­tic Mount Taranaki on the west coast of the North Is­land, the cen­tre is due to open on 25 July, 2015.


The Govett-Brew­ster was founded by a gift to the city of New Ply­mouth, from one of its great­est ‘Friends’ Mon­ica Brew­ster. A glo­be­trot­ter be­fore the age of air travel, Mon­ica Brew­ster en­vis­aged an art mu­seum for her home­town that would be an in­ter­na­tional bea­con for the art and ideas of the cur­rent day – the sort she had be­come familiar with on her global trav­els.

The Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery con­tin­ues in the le­gacy of Mon­ica Brew­ster by tak­ing on and pre­sent­ing the most provoca­tive, au­da­cious and con­fi­dent works of art in the global arts land­scape.

Len Lye (1901-1980) ex­hib­ited at the Govett-Brew­ster in 1977 and fall­ing in love with the en­ergy and land­scape of New Ply­mouth, he chose the con­tem­po­rary art mu­seum to be the home of Len Lye. Just months be­fore his death in 1980, Lye es­tab­lished the Len Lye Foun­da­tion to con­tinue his artis­tic vi­sion, gift­ing his en­tire col­lec­tion of more than 18,000 items to be cared for by the Govett-Brew­ster.


‘Great ar­chi­tec­ture goes fifty-fifty with great art’ LEN LYE 1964

The Len Lye Cen­tre build­ing, ad­join­ing the Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery, is an ex­am­ple of in­no­va­tive think­ing in both en­gi­neer­ing and ar­chi­tec­ture.

The ex­ter­nal stain­less steel façade echoes the artist’s use of the metal in many of his ki­netic sculp­tures, and the fu­tur­is­tic style of the build­ing acts as a coun­ter­foil to the neigh­bour­ing Govett-Brew­ster’s more tra­di­tional lines.

The ar­chi­tects are Pat­ter­sons, one of New Zealand’s most in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised ar­chi­tec­tural firms.

The new build­ing – the Len Lye Cen­tre – will fea­ture Lye’s work in ki­netic sculp­ture, film, paint­ing, drawing, photography, batik and writ­ing, as well as re­lated work by con­tem­po­rary and his­tor­i­cal artists.

The Cen­tre also houses a state-of-the-art 62seat cinema – a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for au­di­ences to ex­pe­ri­ence Len Lye’s films, lo­cal

and in­ter­na­tional cinema, art­house and ex­per­i­men­tal films, and regular film fes­ti­val pro­gram­ming.


A vi­sion­ary New Zealan­der, an in­spi­ra­tional artist, a pi­o­neer of film; Len Lye is one of the most im­por­tant and in­flu­en­tial artists to emerge from New Zealand. Lye’s iconic 45-me­tre ki­netic sculp­ture Wind Wand sways gen­tly on New Ply­mouth’s Coastal Walk­way. The Wind Wand that glows red at night, is the first large out­door sculp­ture to be built posthu­mously from his plans and draw­ings. And plans are afoot to in­stall a group of six 4.5-me­tre tall Wind Wands at New Ply­mouth’s East End beach in time for the open­ing of the Len Lye Cen­tre in July 2015.


One of the Len Lye Cen­tre’s open­ing ex­hi­bi­tions is Len Lye: Four Foun­tains in the new Large Works Gallery. An au­di­ence favourite, the gen­tle, sway­ing Foun­tain is among the ear­li­est of Lye’s ki­netic sculp­tures – a bun­dle of ro­tat­ing stain­less steel rods that twist, flex and shim­mer un­der the gallery’s lights. The ex­hi­bi­tion presents four vari­a­tions of Foun­tain, in­clud­ing a new mem­ber of the fam­ily of works, the 8-me­tre tall ver­sion en­gi­neered by the Len Lye Foun­da­tion from Lye’s ex­ten­sive ar­chive of notes and de­signs. As a film­maker Len Lye de­scribed cinema as ‘move­ment and light’. In 1977 he brought sculp­ture into the same frame with his ki­netic master­piece, Tril­ogy (A Flip and Two Twis­ters) – a frenzy of move­ment and light de­signed for the Govett-Brew­ster’s high­est gallery. The Len Lye Foun­da­tion is re­con­struct­ing Tril­ogy so that it will be re­in­stated in the same place for the re­open­ing of the Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery. Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the mu­si­cal el­e­ments in Lye’s work, the ex­hi­bi­tion Len Lye’s Jam Ses­sion presents the bound­ing steel of Uni­verse, the flash­ing en­ergy of film, and the del­i­cate sway of Grass – with mu­sic go­ing hand-in-hand with the artist’s cre­ations. Open­ing in the Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery is Our Hearts of Dark­ness, an ex­hi­bi­tion largely cu­rated from the trea­sure trove of the Govett-Brew­ster Col­lec­tion. The show looks at codes of vi­o­lence in Aotearoa New Zealand cul­ture as ex­pressed through con­tem­po­rary art.

Len Lye Tril­ogy: A Flip And Two Twis­ters

IM­AGE: Glenn Jef­frey

The sun rises over the Len Lye Cen­tre, March 2015.

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