Stuff reporter Stephanie Mitchell thinks with the current exhibitions the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre is worth $15 easy. Photo Simon O'Connor/Stuff

Stuff reporter Stephanie Mitchell thinks with the current exhibitions the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre is worth $15 easy. Photo Simon O'Connor/Stuff

Len Lye Centre $15 charge good value for money

22 Aug 2018

OPINION: You could say the Len Lye Centre is New Plymouth's most controversial institution.

Since opening with much fanfare in 2015 it has faced constant criticism.

Review by Stuff reporter Stephanie Mitchell

From the amount of ratepayer money funding the centre, critics saying there's not enough content, to director Simon Rees mysteriously resigning in May. It's been a rough ride, but the new $15 for out-of-towners is perhaps the biggest controversy.

Especially as it came just months after John Matthews, one of the people who helped bring the gallery to life, called it 'boring'.

Is the centre (which we must remember is joined to the renowned Govett Brewster Art Gallery) even worth $15? After all, there's a bit of competition in Taranaki for a tourist's cash.

They can hire a bike and ride the Coastal Walkway, visit Tawhiti Museum in Hāwera, get a burger and a beer at Frederics with $3 left over, go to the Todd Energy Aquatic Centre for a dip three times, get half way out to the Sugar Loaf Islands with Chaddy's Charters, hire a kayak, or pay for petrol to drive out to Cape Egmont Lighthouse.

But do these adventures enrich your mind the way The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre (GBAG/LLC) just might?

I wanted to find out so I went along with my printed insurance bill to flash my New Plymouth address (to get me in free of charge) to find out if paying customers would get their money's worth. 

Admittedly, having gone through a couple of times before, I was skeptical. The inside of the building hadn't matched the extravagance of the outside. 

But now as soon as you walk in there is something to look at other than the impressive concrete foundations of the building's wavy exterior.

With new exhibitions, Len Lye: Heaven and Earth, Projection Series #11: An Oceanic Feeling, Sensory Agents, and WharehokaSmith: Kureitanga II IV, the gallery has hit on a winning combination.

After numerous critiques of the gallery lacking Lye sculptures, there are currently more than half a dozen on display, each performing for around four minutes.  

All are cool (yes that's an art critic term), but perhaps not all are worth watching in their entirety. 

It's not just Lye's works that are impressive. The works on display by other artists that tie in with the sensory theme are also great. 

My favourite, by Danae Valenza, sits in a hallway as you walk between two gallery halls. It lights up as it senses you walk past. 

I genuinely lost track of time on my visit to the gallery and before I knew it had been there for 45 minutes. It was easy.

My advice is to give it your all. You can't stroll through thinking you'll get the full experience without stopping. You won't.

You've got to slow down and come to a complete stop at each piece, read the history, put the headphones on, watch the films. 

If you do that you'll be satisfied with your spend. 

And although I didn't pay because I'm a New Plymouth resident, I would have. 

Perhaps the idea of charging to get in to the gallery raised so many hairs in Taranaki because we're not used to paying for much in terms of tourism. 

Nine of the top 10 things to do in Taranaki are free. 

The Coastal Walkway, which also features Len Lye sculptures, the Pouakai Track, Puke Ariki Museum, Brooklands Zoo, the award winning Pukekura Park. All free. 

But overseas visitors are unlikely to be put off by $15. After all they'd pay $37 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, $29 to get into The Louvre in Paris and $30 to see the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. 

Now it's worth noting this charge may not stick around forever but for now I can safely say you get your money's worth. 

I just hope they keep up the momentum with future exhibitions.



You've got to slow down and come to a complete stop at each piece, read the history, put the headphones on, watch the films.
If you do that you'll be satisfied with your spend.