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The Len Lye Centre

Artist Len Lye in studio 1958, image courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation.

22 Jun 2015


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.

The 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.

A temple for art, the space creates a sensory experience of light that Len’s legacy inspires.

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 62-seat 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.

Follow progress here: www.govettbrewster.com

Architects Impression, The Len Lye Centre