Contemporary art, historic collections, and plenty of local and international treasures to cherish. As you’re about to see, New Zealand’s best galleries are filled with compelling pieces and a lot of character. Come with us as we take a quick look at some of the finest artworks you’ll discover on your travels.
Auckland has been blessed with an incredible assortment of galleries, and its oldest is a definite must-visit for all art lovers. More than 15,000 works are part of Auckland Art Gallery’s nationally-significant collections. Its holdings include historic and modern New Zealand art, as well as exquisite artworks and sculptures dating as far back as the 11th Century.
The City Gallery resides at the heart of Wellington’s Civic Square, and was the first non-collecting public gallery to be opened in New Zealand. Since its establishment in 1989, the gallery has earned a strong reputation for showcasing innovative, thought-provoking pieces. Art, architecture and design exhibitions from New Zealand and abroad are a prominent feature of this eclectic space. The Fault exhibit is a permanent fixture in this gallery, setting out to shed light on the city’s main vulnerability: being built right on top of an earthquake fault line.
The Christchurch Art Gallery reopened for visitors in 2015. The major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 led the gallery to temporary close its doors, as the spacious building became the city’s main civil defence headquarters in the aftermath of the quake damage. Before getting back to its artistic foundations, the gallery underwent its own set of renovations and repairs, which took a couple of years to complete. In present times, visitors are invited to immerse themselves on the South Island’s largest collection of public artworks as well as a regular lineup of contemporary exhibitions.
From European greats like Monet and Rembrandt to Japanese prints and 19th-century New Zealand works, if it’s fine art that you’re looking for, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is the place to visit. The gallery is renowned for its wide-ranging displays, which pretty much cover all artistic periods, as well its airy ambiance and beautifully designed interiors. Its educational holiday programmes are also quite popular among local families with kids.
A relatively newcomer to New Zealand’s arts scene, the Tauranga Art Gallery is quickly earning a reputation for its high quality exhibits. An active lineup of displays from New Zealand and around the globe continues to be featured in this modern, central-city space. In fact, the Tauranga Art Gallery has recently made history by hosting the largest public display of Banksy originals in the Southern Hemisphere. True to New Zealand’s community-based affinities, the gallery holds an annual exhibition of the best artwork from local high school students too.
Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery houses more than 8,000 artworks and archival pieces, covering four centuries’ worth of New Zealand and European art history. Mixed media, old and new, feature prominently among their collections, which include sculptures, paintings, photographs, ceramics and glass works. The gallery was founded in 1919 at the bequest of a local man called Henry Sarjeant. More than a century later, the iconic building is progressing through a major redevelopment, with hopes of preserving Serjeant’s legacy for many more years to come.
A dynamic and always compelling curation of contemporary exhibitions is the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s speciality. This New Plymouth institution was founded by Monica Brewster in 1970 – her passion for the community motivated her to invest in the local art scene. Maori and Pacific works feature prominently among the gallery’s collection, as do thought-provoking pieces from across the country. The only permanent display at Govett-Brewster, however, is the Len Lye Centre, a film and kinetic art exhibit that pays homage to its namesake artist.