Len Lye’s work

Len Lye, Baby Dodds photogram (1947). Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

Len Lye, Baby Dodds photogram (1947). Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

"I'm interested in the business of energy and getting a feeling of zizz."

Though best known internationally as a film-maker, Lye used many different forms of expression, including textiles, painting, drawing, static and kinetic sculpture. He was also a writer of poetry, fanciful letters, stories and utopian theoretical texts dealing with the relationship between art, individuality, and happiness.

The Govett-Brewster holds the collection of work by Len Lye, on behalf of the Len Lye Foundation. The collection includes Lye's pioneering kinetic sculptures, photograms and experimental films, and a substantial archive.

The Len Lye Collection and Archive consists of all non-film works in Lye’s possession at the time of his death in 1980, as well as several items that have been gifted or acquired by the Foundation since. This body of work is extended by Len Lye works in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. The New Zealand Film Archive is the repository of Lye’s film prints that are owned by the Len Lye Foundation, and viewing prints are also in the Collection at the Govett-Brewster.

The Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive is one of the most remarkable collections to have been left by an artist anywhere in the world. Containing an estimated 18,000 objects, the collection includes sculpture, painting, photography, drawings and studio paraphernalia in addition to a fascinating archive of Lye's designs, paperwork and manuscripts. The Govett-Brewster works on the steady cataloguing, conservation and research of all these materials with approximately 1/4 complete in 2018. In addition to the thousands of visitors who come to see Lye's art in the Govett-Brewster's galleries, artists and scholars from across the globe visit New Plymouth to undertake research with the collection and archive.

The relational database of the Len Lye Collection and Archive consists of 3,772 catalogue entries with an estimated total of 18,000 items. The collection includes:

  • paintings
  • photograms
  • textile works
  • rare books
  • photographs, many documenting his sculpture 
  • 16mm film prints (some of which are included in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection)
  • linear metres of archival material, comprised of boxes containing individual folders
  • exhibition-standard kinetic sculptures (two of which are included in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection)
  • audio tapes
  • slides
  • ‘doodles’, drawings and prints
  • Various materials from the artist’s studio and 
  • Approximately 14 kinetic sculptures to be reconstructed or developed.
Discover Len Lye’s Work:





Works on paper


International holdings of Len Lye works

Len Lye’s sculptures are also held in the collections of several major art museums, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Whitney Museum in New York, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo and the Art Institute of Chicago. Major repositories of Lye’s film work include the New Zealand Film Archive, the British Film Institute and the Museum of Modern Art.

Whitney Museum, New York
Fountain 1959

The Art Institute of Chicago
Loop 1963

University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Trilogy 1965

Albright-Knox, Buffalo, NY
Grass 1965

Tel Aviv Museum


The British Film Institute
Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), New York

If you have further enquiries about Len Lye and his work, email: lenlye@govettbrewster.com