Robert Graves and Len Lye in Deyà, Mallorca 1968. Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

Robert Graves and Len Lye in Deyà, Mallorca 1968. Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

On an island with artist Len Lye

04 Apr 2017

A new exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre takes a close look at Lye’s friendships and collaborations during the early years of his career and his stay on the Spanish Island of Mallorca in 1930.

At the heart of this period is Lye’s friendship with Robert Graves and Laura Riding, each acclaimed for their talent as poets, writers and critics. Together they were a formidable literary union, one of the most aggressive voices in the world of modern literature and instrumental in bringing the writer out in Lye. 

The exhibition On an Island presents a survey of works connected to Lye’s time on Mallorca including his early batiks, photography and book cover designs, shown alongside archival and literary materials by Graves and Riding – capturing the creative circle Lye occupied. 

Len Lye Curator Paul Brobbel: “Living in the coastal village of Deyá, Lye found a landscape that recalled his childhood in New Zealand, particularly the wild and rugged landscape of Cape Campbell”. 

“Mallorca connected with Lye’s fertile mind and provided the artist with one of his most productive but overlooked periods in his career,” says Brobbel.

For several months following the completion of his first film, Tusalava, Lye lived with the famed literary couple Robert Graves and Laura Riding in their Mallorca home, working on ideas for new artistic projects and producing book cover designs for the couple’s newly founded publishing house, Seizin Press.

On an Island
fills a gallery in the Len Lye Centre side of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery from 8 April to 6 August 2017.

Pride of place in On an Island is a rarely seen painting dedicated to Len Lye by Ben Nicholson, close friend, leading figure of the British art scene and one of Lye’s correspondents during his island stay.

Published in association with the exhibition is Len Lye’s essay Individual Happiness Now with an introduction by Roger Horrocks. A collaboration between Lye and Graves, it was written in 1941 as Britain was on the brink of being invaded by the Nazis. Their text - a kind of manifesto about what it means to live in a free society - is being published for the first time.

Also showing at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre:

Celebrating 40 Years of Len Lye and New Plymouth – Len Lye: Fountain III
Mon 27 Mar – Sun 30 Jul
In celebration of 40 years since Len Lye first exhibited in New Zealand at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with his kinetic sculpture Fountain III.

Open Collection #3: Tom
27 Mar – 30 Jul
Eager to celebrate the quirkiness of everyday life through his art, Kreisler asks his audiences to look at the world around them in a different way – encouraging a sense of amusement and gentle contemplation.

In Play: Hany Armanious, Peter Robinson, Jim Speers
Sat 1 Apr – Sun 23 Jul
Three large-scale installations held in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection question ideas of authorship and public space by playing with colour, scale and material.

Oskar Fischinger's Raumlichtkunst
Sat 8 April – Sun 6 Aug
A re-creation of Fischinger’s multiple-screen film events, first shown in Germany in 1926, and reconstructed by the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles in 2012.

Revealed #2: Florian Pumhösl and Paul Bonet
Sat 8 Apr – Sun 23 Jul
The second Revealed exhibition showcases drawings by the French book cover designer Paul Bonet (1889-1971) from the collection of contemporary Austrian artist Florian Pumhösl (1971).

Opening Weekend Events:

Curator talk
Raumlichtkunst with Cindy Keefer
Sat 8 April, 11am, free entry
Archivist, curator and Director of the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles, Cindy Keefer, introduces the work of Oskar Fischinger through Raumlichtkunst and other films.

On an Island with Dr Raymond Spiteri
Sat 8 April, 2pm, free entry
Art historian Raymond Spiteri from Victoria University leads a tour of the exhibition On an Island: Len Lye, Robert Graves and Laura Riding, exploring modernist publishing and surrealism.

Artist talk
Jim Speers
Sat 8 April, 3pm, free entry
In the Govett-Brewster Collection exhibition In Play, exhibiting artist Jim Speers talks about his installation Crystal Spirit and then in the Len Lye Centre Cinema introduces his short film Apartment.

Artist talk
Janine Eisenächer
Sun 9 April, 11am, free entry
Berlin based German performance artist, curator and writer Janine Eisenächer talks about her artistic practice. She is currently undertaking an artist residency in Wellington through the Goethe-Institut in co-operation with Wellington City Council.

Image: Robert Graves and Len Lye in Deyà, Mallorca 1968. Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre




The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre is open six days: Sat, Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 10am – 6pm.
When planning your visit, remember the gallery is closed on Tuesdays. It will however be open on ANZAC Day Tue 25 Apr, 1pm – 6pm.
Winter hours are from Mon 1 May to Mon 30 Oct: 10am – 5pm.


For high-res images or further enquiries please contact:
Kelly Loney

Communications Co-ordinator

M: +27 839 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, cult, arthouse and experimental films, and regular 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.



“Living in the coastal village of Deyá, Lye found a landscape that recalled his childhood in New Zealand, particularly the wild and rugged landscape of Cape Campbell” - Len Lye Curator Paul Brobbel