New Plymouth art galleries, museums and events

Discover the vivacious vibe of Taranaki and its magnificent obsession with art.

New Plymouth is well known for its creative side. The Govett-Brewster is one of New Zealand's leading contemporary art galleries. The adjoining Len Lye Centre is a go-to destination for experimental film and kinetic art. Nearby, the award-winning Puke Ariki museum provides a great way to learn more about the region. And in the heart of New Plymouth is one of New Zealand's premier botanical gardens, Pukekura Park, often described as the jewel in New Plymouth's crown and which hosts thousands of visitors every year.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery opened in February 1970. It was established by New Plymouth woman Monica Brewster (née Govett). Since then, it has leaped to the forefront of New Zealand's contemporary art scene where it remains. The Govett-Brewster applies a visionary exhibition and collection policy. It has acquired a bold collection of artworks from New Zealand, the Pacific Rim, and beyond. You can experience innovative and provocative work by the world's leading contemporary artists.

Adjoining the Govett-Brewster Gallery is the Len Lye Centre, with a distinctive eye-catching mirror-like façade. Born in New Zealand in 1901, Len Lye is arguably one of the twentieth century's most original artists. He became internationally renowned as a 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. Part of the Len Lye collection can be found at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. In the gallery, you can find his non-film work, which is under the supervision of the Len Lye Foundation.

The architecturally stunning Len Lye Centre opened in 2015. It was built as an extension to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery to display works from the Len Lye collection. The centre is clad in curtain-like curves of stainless steel that reflect the energy and 'zizz' of Len Lye's work. To no surprise, it has become a celebrated New Plymouth landmark; much like Len Lye's famous Wind Wand that is installed on the CBD waterfront.

The centre curates changing exhibitions from the Len Lye collection. People from around New Zealand and the world come to New Plymouth to enjoy the works of this pioneering modernist. Dedicated to 'composing motion', a lot of Len's work involves larger kinetic works. You'll also see exhibitions from other mind-stretching contemporary artists. A visit to the Len Lye Centre is a refreshing, thought-provoking, and inspiring experience.

Clad in curtain-like curves of stainless steel that reflect the energy and 'zizz' of Len Lye's work.

Puke Ariki, the New Plymouth museum and library

Puke Ariki is a combined museum, library, and i-Site visitor information centre. 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. It provides an interactive programme of exhibitions and events that change every few months. Visitors will find the permanent exhibitions both enjoyable and educational, with five gallery spaces to explore – Reef Life!, Te Takapou Whariki o Taranaki, Taranaki Naturally, and Taranaki Life.

If you're visiting with children, be sure to pick up one of the entertaining scavenger hunts. The hunts are designed for children of all ages. You can also cross the enclosed air bridge to the library, which includes Discover It. This is a popular section for children and teenagers. If you need a replenishment, the library has a comfortable café. Here 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. It serves delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes in a modern setting. Sit outside on the enclosed terrace that looks out to the sea and enjoy a good view.

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. You will learn about the struggles and triumphs of early European settlers.

Around the region

Lysaght Watt Gallery in Hāwera showcases a range of works in a wide variety of mediums, and hosts exhibitions in collaboration with groups and institutions from around Taranaki and Aotearoa. While in South Taranaki, check out Tawhiti Museum and Traders & Whalers for a life-sized slice of Taranaki history, and Aotea Utanganui Museum in Pātea to view the significant collections of artifacts found in New Zealand.

Stratford is home to the Percy Thompson Gallery, an award-winning public art gallery with national recognition as a thriving and diverse exhibition space. Exhibitions are often changed every three to four weeks, so you are sure to see something new whenever you visit. The building also houses a café that is the perfect place to stop, browse and relax with a great cup of coffee before enjoying the current exhibitions.

TSB Festival of Lights, New Plymouth

This festival is another highlight of the New Plymouth events calendar. From December to late January/early February, the beautiful Pukekura Park becomes a wonderland of light and colour. The park includes botanic gardens, native trees and forests. You can take the walking tracks around the large lake, which has a fountain, and to the waterfall. There are also children's playgrounds, a fernery, display houses, and several historic bridges. During the festival, a series of lighting installations completely transform the natural environment. From 8:30pm to 11pm every night it's a magical place to be.

The TSB Festival of Lights is free and provides family-friendly events during both the day and night. The live entertainment features local and international musicians, performers, and roving entertainers.

WOMAD Global Village image courtesy of Federico Pagola; Len Lye Centre image courtesy of Patrick Reynolds; Festival of Lights image courtesy of Brook Sabin; Main lake image courtesy of Charlotte Curd