An Art Lover's Guide to New Caledonia

Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Tjibaou Cultural Centre | © Fourrure / Flickr

New Caledonia is home to a diverse art scene and continues to inspire many artists, including painters, sculptors, dancers and musicians. You’ll see a number of styles of art and photography here, from contemporary to tribal inspirations. So, if you’d rather skip the beaches, then delve into the art and cultural side of this French Pacific nation.

Museums and galleries

Art lovers ares spoilt for choice when it comes to museums and galleries, especially in the capital of Noumea, although you may find some exhibitions in various hotels across the mainland, Grande Terre. New Caledonian artists have been exhibiting their work for many years at Arte Bello, in Noumea’s vibrant Latin Quarter. Sometimes the artists are also on site to mix and mingle with gallery visitors. For those who want to see and discover tribal art, head the DZ gallery in Noumea. The gallery itself is an old colonial house, but the exhibitions include many Pacific and Aboriginal artworks and artefacts.

Meanwhile, painter Eric Valet owns a gallery in the Ouémo area, Le Chevalet d’Art. The gallery has three different exhibition areas and also provides several services. One part of the gallery features paintings from a diverse range of artists, all with varying painting techniques. Other services include farming and art restoration workshops.

Kanak art

Cultural centers

One of New Caledonia’s most iconic buildings is the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea. The building design itself is impressive and it’s worth visiting just to see the architecture, let alone the incredible artworks inside.

It’s a very modern work of art designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, resembling the local Kanak culture by taking on the form of stylised huts, made of steel and wood. It’s not just a museum but also an auditorium, multimedia library, congress center, research centre and a botanical garden. The exhibitions held at Tjibaou are based around tribal art and Kanak culture through the ages, as well as many other Oceanian artworks. One of the key focuses for the center is to protect and promote the Kanak culture.

The Mont Dore Cultural Centre and auditorium hosts around 100 shows and events each year, including concerts and exhibitions. It also has several music classrooms and dance rooms.

Tjibaou Cultural Centre

Street art

You don’t have to wander far in New Caledonia before you come across street art and murals. Especially in Noumea, you’ll find a lot of graffiti art on building walls. One of the best places is the FOL theatre, which was closed and abandoned after a tropical cyclone. A number of graffiti artists have turned what was becoming a sad and depressing site into something more lively with their street art. The graffiti has become quite famous and is another Noumea must-see.

Street art in Noumea

Festivals

New Caledonia has a lively performing arts scene with both professional and amateur shows and festivals. The Theatre d l’Ile is home to many shows and often hosts works from France. The theatre building itself was originally designed as a church, has housed a shoe factory, food shop and warehouse before being abandoned for many years. It was restored and inaugurated in 2000.

New Caledonia hosts a variety of arts and culture festivals each year, including the Yam Festival, which is of particular importance to the Kanak people. Yams are always present in births, deaths and marriages. Villages celebrate the harvest of yams with a parade, carnival, exhibitions, concerts, dancing and tastings.

Being a French nation, the 14th of July, Bastille Day, is a major celebration and national holiday, celebrated in much the same way as it would be in France with fireworks, parades, music and dancing.

Each year in August, the Noumea Carnival gets underway which is one of the largest events in the country. It includes concerts, music, costumes, dancing, food, a parade and fireworks.

Another arts festival is the Night of the Museums, where the country’s museums open their doors for a special evening of entertainment with themed tours, competitions, workshops and special exhibitions.

Noumea’s City Museum

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