The mysterious island of New Zealand is full of natural beauty, but the city of Wellington is full of wonderful manmade creations. Known for offering alternative and innovative perspectives, artsy Wellington neighborhoods to discover include Civic Square and the Cuba Art Quarter. From international artists to local crafters, these ten contemporary art galleries in Wellington showcase the best of New Zealand’s art.
Artrium Gallery keeps a busy schedule, showcasing a new line-up of talent almost every month. The gallery is focused on the new, searching for and promoting the early careers of emerging artists without limiting itself to any specific genre or material; visitors will find paintings and sculptures as well as jewellery and glass. Artrium typically puts on group shows, bringing together various artists around a single theme. The owner has quirky taste and regularly finds fascinating artists, including David Boyle, creator of amazing pour-over book sculptures.
Left: Peter Robinson, Cuts and Junctures, 2013, Adam Art Gallery | Image courtesy of the artist and Peter Mcleavey Gallery. Photo by Shau; Right: Judy Millar, Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, 2009, Adam Art Gallery.
Adam Art Gallery
Adam Art Gallery is a university gallery offering a wide-ranging program of exhibitions and events that cultivate the understanding and practice of visual art and culture. They do this through a variety of exhibitions featuring both national and international artists working in disciplines that range from the visual arts, craft and architecture to design and music. Above all, Adam Art Gallery’s exhibitions are meant to be thought-provoking. Past shows have included themes such as Cinema and Painting, which examined the intersection between these two art forms, and Modernist sculpture by New Zealand artist Peter Robinson. Additionally, the Victoria University of Wellington art collection, which comprises over 240 works by New Zealand artists, is on permanent display throughout the university campus.
Avid Gallery is a must for object and jewelry collectors and connoisseurs. Avid represents some of the country’s leading artists in glass, ceramics, bronze, stone, mixed media, and other objects of applied art. Here you will find contemporary jewelry featuring work in gold, silver, jade, stone, and modern materials. Exhibitions at Avid range from impressive bird sculptures by Martin Carryer to Trevor Byron’s quirky silver nature-based brooches and earrings, and ceramic paintings and sculptures by Adrienne Riseley.
Bartley + Company Art is focused on emerging and established contemporary New Zealand artists, and features critically relevant artwork in all media. The gallery believes that art is essentially social, with an underlying function of communication, and therefore chooses artists whose work has something to say. In their cozy gallery space, visitors will find artists such as Shane McGrath and his intriguing mini-metal sculptures reminiscent of jungle gym playgrounds of the 1950s and 60s, contemporary painter Andre Hemer and the bright, bold color explorations of Judy Millar.
City Gallery Wellington was the first significant non-collecting exhibition-based public gallery in New Zealand, and remains at the forefront of the country’s art institutions. It hosts local, national, and international artists, providing a space for the public to interact with contemporary visual art, architecture, and design. Known for its innovative exhibitions, City Gallery Wellington also strives to engage its visitors, offering artist talks, art workshops, lectures and more. International artists whose work has been exhibited in the gallery include Yayoi Kusama, Tracey Emin, and Frida Kahlo, but the space has also hosted important names from the New Zealand scene, including Bill Hammond, Ralph Hotere and Shane Cotton.
The Dowse Art Museum is a hotbed of contemporary art happenings, especially when it comes to craft and design. They’ve built their reputation on quality exhibitions and events by both national and international artists. Exhibitions they’ve curated in the past include New Zealand sculptor Peter Robinson, who joins conceptual minimalism with craft traditions and a group exhibition featuring 12 contemporary male artists working with textiles. Dowse Square and the area around the building are home to a number of public artworks, while the museum itself keeps a busy events calendar with artist talks, children’s workshops and a monthly music session.
Yona Lee, 2013. Tangential Structures | Image courtesy of Lance Cash and Enjoy Public Art
Enjoy Public Art Gallery
Enjoy’s aim is to promote the discourse of contemporary art practice no matter its form. They do this by both generating and facilitating contemporary art projects. With a special focus on emerging artists, an eye for the new and a willing spirit, Enjoy is an important voice on the New Zealand art scene. Past projects include New Zealand artist Helen Calder who has an intimate relationship with color, an installation piece by Melissa Laing and Kerry Ann Lee ,which used digital videos, sonic art, and publications to explore ideas about migration and settlement in New Zealand, and a collaborative project between Simon Morris and Brenda Sullivan, which explored the gallery as a living entity. Enjoy is also home to an artist space with individual shows and a summer residency program.
Page Blackie Gallery represents leading contemporary New Zealand artists, showcasing both contemporary and historic artwork. With three independent exhibiting spaces and more than 25 years of experience, the gallery is an authority on the national contemporary art scene. Visiting their spacious gallery, one might become acquainted with Emily Wolfe and her domestically set paintings, John Walsh’s realistic portraits, or Max Gimblett’s colorful concoctions that fuse Abstract Expressionism, Modernism, Eastern and Western spiritual beliefs, and ancient culture.
Pataka is dedicated to celebrating local heritage and shows the very best in contemporary Maori, Pacific Island, and New Zealand art. This is the museum to visit to discover the newest and more established New Zealand artists, as well as the shapes and forms their art is taking today. Pataka focuses on heritage and social history exhibitions; artists who have exhibited in the past include photographer Shigeyuki Kihara, an installation by Tiffany Singh which involved local school children, and a group show featuring contemporary New Zealand artists. All in all, Pataka is nestled in a unique cultural space, as its building also includes the Porirua City Library, Melody Farm Music Museum, a traditional Japanese garden, and Cafe Kaizen.
Contemporary New Zealand art in the heart of Wellington can be found in the gallery space of Robert Heald. Here, you can discover a range of artists working in many mediums, such as Patrick Lundberg and his contemporary painted objects, the avant-garde paintings of David Cauchi, or a photo-collage exhibition by New Zealand local Peter Madden. Exhibitions here rotate on a monthly basis, which means the gallery is a great place to visit regularly for a quick update on what its artists are up to.