At the 2016 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards
An “inspired decision” by New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) to create the city’s Len Lye Centre has given Taranaki a stunning facility housing a world-renowned art collection, archive, education facility and cinema.
The council has won this award for the centre at the council-owned Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth.
Judges praised the centre – which houses some of the collection and archive of the internationally renowned artist – “as an internationally significant place which recognises one of New Zealand’s preeminent sons”.
They also noted that it is a wonderful partner for the Puke Ariki Museum, and acknowledged the commitment from the community in raising funds for it.
Len Lye, one of the most important artists to emerge from New Zealand, pioneered the idea that art could not only represent movement but could actually be in motion.
He became a US citizen in 1950 and, while internationally-recognised, was virtually unknown in the country of his birth. The opening of the centre in 2015 has raised his profile in New Zealand, with the centre attracting national and international visitors.
The first New Zealand exhibition of Lye’s work was held at the Govett-Brewster in 1977. When he died in 1980, he gifted the works in his possession to the Len Lye Foundation for the public benefit of New Zealanders – stipulating his original works could only be permanently displayed in New Plymouth.
Before the construction of the Len Lye Centre, only two exhibitions of Lye’s work could be mounted each year – but this still drew more than 500,000 visitors between 1980 and 2010.
From the outset NPDC recognised the potential for the project and wrote a strategic plan in 2003 to realise it. The centre has become a national symbol of local government collaborating with its community in pursuing a bold vision.
This article was first published in the August 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.