Len Lye gallery to open in New Plymouth

  • 28/06/2015

A multimillion-dollar art gallery dedicated to one of New Zealand's most influential modern artists is about to open in New Plymouth.

As well as turning the locals' heads, it's attracting attention around the world.

The Len Lye Centre hasn't even opened but it's already attracting the glare of international publicity.

"I think already we're seeing it being recognised," says Rivet managing director Steve Scott. "I was travelling overseas last week and two or three people were aware of the project and that it was in New Plymouth."

It's been almost 40 years since the visionary artist and filmmaker fell in love with New Plymouth and gifted his collection to the Govett Brewster Art Gallery, but his legacy's not forgotten.

"The most famous quote, certainly in architecture, from Len Lye is, 'Great art and great architecture go together 50/50,' and that was a fantastic thing for us," says architect Andrew Patterson. "It was like getting a brief from Len Lye from beyond the grave."

Despite none of the project's $11.5 million budget coming out of ratepayer's pockets, locals' hearts weren't easily won.

"The reaction at the start was pretty negative, a lot of people yelling out stuff, the tooting of the horns of people driving past," says site manager Leighton Cottam. "But as the job has gone on, especially once the façade has gone up, the mood changed pretty damn quick."

Stainless steel was used by Lye in many of his kinetic sculptures, but its use in the building also celebrates Taranaki as a world-leading engineering hub, and gave local contractors a different kind of job.

"Handrails, sink benches, they're long forgotten the day after they're installed," says Mr Scott. "They're the practical side of business, but this has got something you can be really proud of."

The gallery boss thinks Lye would be proud of it too.

"It is a building that reflected what he did in his art, particularly in its materiality, and it certainly has a 'zizz' about it, to borrow one of his words," says gallery director Simon Rees.

That zizz, including exhibition spaces, an underground cinema, cafe and function spaces, will open to the public on July 25.

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source: newshub archive