Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye

Long awaited DVD collection of Len Lye’s films

20 Sep 2016

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Len Lye Foundation and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision launches the first comprehensive DVD collection of experimental films by Len Lye available in New Zealand.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Len Lye Foundation and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision launches the first comprehensive DVD collection of experimental films by Len Lye available in New Zealand.

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye presents the largest and most complete collection of work by the New Zealand-born master of ‘direct’ animation and as Time magazine put it, “England’s answer to Walt Disney”.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Director Simon Rees says this DVD is an essential resource for cinephiles and fans of Lye’s work, presenting masterpieces across Lye’s pioneering career in film. It includes his first film Tusalava (1929) through to the masterpiece ‘scratch’ films Free Radicals (1958) and Particles in Space (1979). 

“We’re delighted to deliver such a historically important body of material to our audience – it’s a collection that is long overdue and long desired around the world,” Rees says.

Film Historian, Len Lye biographer and Len Lye Foundation trustee Professor Emeritus Roger Horrocks says “this DVD is the biggest collection of Lye’s films ever released – 19 films, made between 1929 to 1979 – and it makes a great case for him to be seen as the most entertaining and most original film-maker that New Zealand has produced”.

Len Lye curator Paul Brobbel says at the heart of Lye’s career is his acclaimed body of work for Britain’s General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit. These short film advertisements represent some of the most innovative production techniques ever applied to film, with vivid hand-painted imagery, jump-cut editing and synchronised to popular tunes of the day, Brobbel says.

“With the enduring popularity of this body of work in particular, Lye was made for the MTV-generation and those following,” he says.

All four GPO films are included in Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye – the titular A Colour Box (1935), Rainbow Dance (1936), N or NW (1937) and Trade Tattoo (1937). The DVD presents these and other 1930s animations alongside early stop-motion films Experimental Animation (1933) and Birth of a Robot (1936). Several lesser-known films appear in restored form, including Life’s Musical Minute (1953) and the majestic All Souls Carnival (1957).

The New Zealand audiovisual archive Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision is the home of Len Lye’s film and has been working with the Len Lye Foundation since 1993 to care for and share his work.

Ngā Taonga chief executive Rebecca Elvy says “Len Lye was a creative and technical force decades ahead of his time”.

Ngā Taonga worked with the support of the Museum of Modern Art and the British Film Institute, carrying out extensive technical work to source, check, compare and preserve high quality copies of several of the 19 films for the DVD. 

This DVD project is a collaboration between Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision and the Len Lye Foundation, and was assisted by the Technix Group Ltd and the Stout Trust.

The DVD Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye is available from the Govett-Brewster Shop and online at for NZ$30.



Image: The new DVD Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye


This DVD is launched in conjunction with the new Govett-Brewster Art Gallery exhibition suite which includes Set in Motion – Len Lye’s sculpture and film alongside work by contemporary international kinetic artists Rebecca Baumann, Žilvinas Kempinas, Taree Mackenzie and Ross Manning.

For high-res images, further enquiries and/or a review copy of the DVD Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye contact:
Kelly Loney

Communications Co-ordinator

M: +275 839 2660




About Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is New Zealand’s contemporary art museum in the coastal city of New Plymouth, Taranaki on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since opening in 1970, the Gallery has dedicated itself to innovative programming, focused collection development and audience engagement. It has earned a strong reputation nationally and internationally for its global vision and special commitment to contemporary art of the Pacific Rim. The Govett-Brewster is also home to the collection and archive of the seminal modernist filmmaker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye (1901–1980).

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery was founded with a gift to the city of New Plymouth, from one of its greatest ‘Friends’ Monica Brewster (née Govett). A globetrotter before the age of air travel, Monica Brewster envisaged an art museum for her hometown that would be an international beacon for the art and ideas of the current day – the sort she had become familiar with on her global travels.

The Govett-Brewster continues in the legacy of Monica Brewster by taking on and presenting the most provocative, audacious and confident works of art in the global arts landscape.

The greatly expanded museum re-launched on 25 July 2015 with the addition of the Len Lye Centre. With its curved exterior walls of mirror-like stainless steel, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre is the country’s first example of destination architecture linked to contemporary art.

This latest addition to the Govett-Brewster – the Len Lye Centre – is New Zealand’s first institution dedicated to a single artist, the pioneering filmmaker and kinetic sculptor, Len Lye.

In 1964 Len Lye said “Great architecture goes fifty-fifty with great art”.

The Len Lye Centre building, adjoining the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, is an example of innovative thinking in both engineering and architecture. The architects are Patterson Associates, one of New Zealand’s most internationally recognised architectural firms.

The new Len Lye Centre features Lye’s work in kinetic sculpture, film, painting, drawing, photography, batik and writing, as well as related work by contemporary and historical artists.

It also houses a state-of-the-art 62-seat cinema – a welcoming environment for audiences to experience Len Lye’s films, local and international cinema, arthouse and experimental films, and regular film festival programming.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery building in New Plymouth closed in April 2013 for earthquake strengthening, compliance, upgrades and construction of the Len Lye Centre.

About Len Lye
A visionary New Zealander, an inspirational artist, a pioneer of film; Len Lye is one of the most important and influential artists to emerge from New Zealand.

Len Lye was an experimental filmmaker, poet, painter, kinetic sculptor and creative visionary ahead of his time. Most of his works were so revolutionary that technology literally had to catch up to him – meaning much of Lye’s work was not realised in his own lifetime.

 Lye’s iconic 45-metre kinetic sculpture Wind Wand sways gently on New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway. The Wind Wand that glows red at night, is the first large outdoor sculpture to be built posthumously from his plans and drawings. 

In 1977 Lye returned to his homeland to oversee the first New Zealand exhibition of his work at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. He called it the “swingiest art gallery of the antipodes”.

Shortly before his death in 1980, Lye and his supporters established the Len Lye Foundation, to which he gifted his entire collection. His collection was gifted on the condition that a suitable and permanent home be created in which his works could be fully realised.


“Len Lye was a creative and technical force decades ahead of his time.” - Rebecca Elvy, Ngā Taonga chief executive

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye

Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye