When the doors to New Plymouth's contemporary art museum, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery reopened alongside a new addition dedicated to the pioneering filmmaker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye, Taranaki landed firmly on the global art map.
The culmination of more than three decades’ work, the new a permanent home for the life's works and archives of New Zealand's most prominent international artist Len Lye presents a building as remarkable as the art within it.
Designed by Patterson Architects Associates, the country’s first institution dedicated to a single artist sits within a glistening stainless steel facade - a nod to both Lye's shimmering kinetic steel artworks and the 'local stone' - the stainless steel that epitomises the region's innovation around its dairying and oil and gas economies.
“The building is not only a true testament to Len Lye, but also a triumph of local innovation, creativity and ingenuity. It is a success story and show piece for the skills of the region,” says Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Director, Simon Rees.
“Len Lye is New Zealand’s most significant cultural export of the 20th Century. His contribution to culture is equivalent to that of other great, well-known New Zealanders like Sir Edmund Hillary or Ernest Rutherford in their respective fields”.
“Lye was attracted to the Govett-Brewster because from its opening in 1970 it has forged a reputation for ground breaking exhibition making and producing projects with artists at fulcrum moments in their careers. He called it the “swingiest art gallery of the antipodes”.
In 1977, Len Lye returned to his homeland to oversee the first New Zealand exhibition of his work at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Shortly before his death in 1980, Len and his supporters established the Len Lye Foundation, to which he gifted his entire collection.
“Len Lye’s collection is of huge international significance. It could have gone to any of the world’s leading art institutions – MoMA in New York or the Pompidou in Paris – but Len chose New Zealand, the people of New Plymouth and the Govett Brewster to keep his work alive,” says Rees.
The reopened gallery is already driving urban regeneration, with a number of redevelopment projects in the neighbouring precinct.
It's as much a case of 'get here as soon as you can' as it is 'watch this space.'