New Plymouth, Just Waiting to be Discovered - Day 1 of our North Island Adventure

These are some highlights of a North Island visit we enjoyed in the first week of December 2016, starting with a visit to the charming city of New Plymouth. A special thrill was to discover the ultra-modern and spectacular glass faced Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre, located close to the heart of the city. Just one of many pleasant surprises we encountered on our New Plymouth visit.

In 2015 the New Plymouth gallery, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, opened an ultra-modern new wing dedicated to the art of New Zealand born film-maker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye (US visitors will be interested to know that Len spent much of his life in New York: 1944-1980, eventually becoming an American citizen) 

When he visited New Zealand in 1977, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery offered to build large-scale versions of the sculptures he had never been able to realize and the resulting "Len Lye Centre" where all of his major works are now contained, is a truly breathtaking testament to his art.

Start your visit at the small movie theater that includes filmed interviews with Len is his studio.Then visit the sculptures, most of which are very large and alive with movement and color. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is a "must-do" for any visitor to New Plymouth.



Nigel Tisdale, journalist with the UK based Financial Times visited the Len Lye Centre in May 2017 and this is his story - 

“[Len] Lye’s story might well have slipped into obscurity had his 18,000-item archive not ended up in a small seaside city on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island,” Nigel Tisdall writes for the Financial Times. 

“New Plymouth is blessed with fine surfing beaches and the peak of Mount Taranaki, a snow-streaked volcano so perfectly shaped it has served as a movie stand-in for Mount Fuji. 

New Plymouth was always a pleasant place to stop by, but rarely one that time-pressed international travelers would go out of their way for.

“That is changing. Improved flight connections from Auckland and a handy position at the far end of the Forgotten World Highway, a scenic drive that winds through topsy-turvy hills inland, are all proving incentives to take a trip west. 

More crucially, the opening of the landmark, free-entry Len Lye Centre in 2015 – the first museum in New Zealand devoted to a single artist – has put New Plymouth firmly on the cultural map.

“Set in a once rundown area, its rippling mirrored façade is something you’d expect in Copenhagen or Miami, not a provincial city of 74,000 people. Inside, the galleries make it abundantly clear why Lye’s ‘goop’ is worth discovering, with mesmerizing examples of his kinetic works, along with film screenings and changing exhibitions – currently On an Island, about his time on Mallorca with Graves and Laura Riding (until 6 August).

“As the then mayor, Andrew Judd, noted at the opening, ‘You just need to look at the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania to see the powerful economic effect art combined with destination architecture can have’.

“In a nation where tourism often seems fixated on sport, outdoor adventures and The Lord of the Rings films, it is refreshing to find a city embracing modern art with such gusto. As for Len Lye, he must be oscillating in his grave with joy.”

Original article by Nigel Tisdall, Financial Times, May 19, 2017.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Dec 21, 2016