New Plymouth art galleries, museums and events
New Plymouth has always had a creative vibe. The Govett Brewster is one of New Zealand's leading contemporary art galleries and the adjoining Len Lye Centre celebrates an international pioneer in film art and kinetic sculpture, as well as other leading contemporary artists. Barely two minutes' walk away, the award-winning Puke Ariki library, museum and visitor centre is a great way to learn more about the region. And in New Plymouth's green heart, Pukekura Park and the Bowl of Brooklands host thousands of visitors every year for the hugely popular WOMAD festival and free TSB Festival of Lights - just two of the spectacular events New Plymouth is famous for.
Govett Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre New Plymouth
The Govett Brewster Art Gallery was founded on two substantial bequests in the 1960s and 70s from a wealthy local art lover and environmentalist, Monica Brewster (née Govett). Applying an enlightened collection policy, the gallery has dedicated itself to acquiring a courageous collection of contemporary art from New Zealand, the Pacific Rim and beyond.
Adjoining the Govett Brewster Gallery is the Len Lye Centre, distinctive for its eye-stopping mirror-like façade. Born in New Zealand in 1901, Len Lye became an internationally renowned kinetic sculptor, film artist, painter and poet. When he died in New York in 1980, he bequeathed his entire personal collection to the people of New Zealand. All of the non- film works are held at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery under the supervision of the Len Lye Foundation.
Opened in 2015, the architecturally stunning centre was built as an extension to the Govett Brewster to display works from the Len Lye collection. Clad in curtain-like curves of highly polished stainless steel, the centre has become a celebrated New Plymouth landmark that reflects the energy and 'zizz' of Len Lye's works, just like his famous Wind Wand New Plymouth installed on the CBD waterfront.
The centre curates changing exhibitions from the Len Lye collection, including some of his larger kinetic works. People from throughout New Zealand and around the world come to New Plymouth to enjoy the works of this pioneering modernist who was dedicated to 'composing motion'. You'll also see exhibitions from other mind-stretching contemporary artists, including one of Billy Apple's 'further alterations'. A visit to the Len Lye centre is always refreshing, thought-provoking and inspiring.
Clad in curtain-like curves of stainless steel, the Len Lye Centre has become a celebrated New Plymouth landmark that reflects the energy and 'zizz' of Len Lye's works.
Puke Ariki, the New Plymouth museum and library
Puke Ariki is a combined library, museum and i-Site visitor information centre, so it's a great place to learn more about New Plymouth and Taranaki before exploring the region. Admission is free and there's plenty here to interest people of all ages. There's even a well-stocked store for unique gifts and souvenirs.
The Puke Ariki museum combines history with modern technology to provide an interactive programme of exhibitions and events. Temporary exhibitions change every few months, drawing on the museum's collection to create engaging stories and fascinating insights. The more permanent or ongoing exhibitions include a celebration of New Plymouth artists, which is updated every four months. The Taranaki Life exhibition will introduce you to the lives of local people from the past to the present. Nature lovers will enjoy the ongoing Taranaki Naturally exhibition, which focusses on the region's beautiful landscapes and native species.
If you're visiting with children, be sure to pick up one of the entertaining scavenger hunts designed for different ages. You can also cross the enclosed air bridge to the library, which includes Discover It, a popular section for children and teenagers. The library also has a comfortable café, where you can relax and read magazines with a coffee and a bite to eat.
The award-winning Arborio restaurant, café and bar sits alongside Puke Ariki, serving delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes in a modern setting with an enclosed terrace that looks out to sea.
Puke Ariki also offers bookable guided historic walks around parts of the CBD. Lasting around two hours, they're an easy stroll full of stories about the struggles and triumphs of early European settlers.
WOMAD New Plymouth music festival
Every year for three days around the middle of March, WOMAD - World of Music and Dance - takes place at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands. This truly international festival brings together leading performers from cultures around the world. It's a joyous, funky and family-oriented event in a beautiful park with gardens, lakes and forest walks.
The festival's international flavour is shared by onsite food outlets and wide range of shopping stalls at the Global Village. You can also sign up for fascinating workshops that range from learning how to record and publish music to understanding more about the cultural traditions behind individual performances.
Tickets are available from the WOMAD New Zealand website. You can book for the festival only, festival plus onsite tent camping or motorhome camping, or festival plus a range of glamping or fancier village-style accommodation options.
TSB Festival of Lights, New Plymouth
This festival is another highlight of the New Plymouth events calendar. For seven weeks from mid-December to early February, New Plymouth's beautiful Pukekura Park becomes a wonderland of light and colour. The park includes botanic gardens, mature native trees and forest, children's playgrounds, a fernery and display houses, a large lake with a fountain, a waterfall and walking tracks with several historic bridges. During the festival, a series of highly creative lighting installations completely transform the natural environment from 8:30pm to 11pm every night.
The TSB Festival of Lights is free and includes a popular programme of daytime and nighttime family-friendly events. The live entertainment features local and international musicians, performers and roving entertainers.