Vale Evan Webb

Mon 22 May 2023
Evan Webb, photo: Nicolas Lieber, Museum Tinguely
The Gallery team is deeply saddened by the passing of Evan Webb, long-standing director of the Len Lye Foundation, much loved collaborator with the Govett-Brewster team, and indelible contributor to the legend of Len Lye.

A teacher and sculptor by trade, Evan applied both skillsets to sharing the story of Len Lye, and creating and recreating Lye’s works. Few others globally had Evan’s encyclopedic knowledge of Lye’s engineering aspirations, and fewer again were able to transfer these to the unique qualities of Lye's kinetic sculptures.

Evan began his career teaching in Taranaki, at Waitara Central School then Highlands Intermediate, before moving to Ohura District High School in the mid-1970s. He would return to the region in the 1990s to advise WITT – then Taranaki Polytechnic – on the establishment of their fine arts course. And as Len Lye’s connection to Aotearoa was rekindled through his relationship with the Govett-Brewster, Evan would return often to New Plymouth to collaborate.

More recently Evan could often be found researching in the Len Lye Centre’s archive, or in the gallery between exhibitions, fine-tuning a work before public viewing. When Evan was afforded the opportunity to talk about these works, and his stories were personal, deeply insightful, engaging, and always generous.

Evan’s immense contribution to the knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of Len’s work will leave a lasting legacy. New Zealand art and indeed the national story is larger and richer as a result of Evan’s contribution.

The Gallery's Curator Len Lye Paul Brobbel has worked closely with Evan around the work and world of Len Lye for over a decade.

"It's been a relationship that has moved from project to project with an amazing sense of accomplishment and discovery. One of my first memories of my role of Len Lye Curator was joining Evan and other LLF colleagues in a conversation around building Lye's 'Waving Wands' artwork now at East End beach in New Plymouth. It struck me as a wonderful world to be involved with, exploring the unfinished realms of Lye's practice and the curious challenges to be navigated by Evan and his peerless and delicate blend of artistic and engineering vision.

"More than anyone else, Evan appreciated, understood and applauded the work I've overseen in the LLF collection and archives. He relished the moments when new information or long lost details reemerged from the archive. The increasing clarity or refinements to our work were often small but exciting bursts of joy that I will miss.

"In 2019 I watched as Evan worked with Museum Tinguely in Basel on their Len Lye exhibition 'Motion Composer'. It was a different kind of Len Lye exhibition. To me it felt like an international homecoming for Lye, placing him in the home of one of kinetic arts greatest figures. It is my fondest memory of Evan and his work.

"Over the last few decades he's steered Lye's work through milestones such as exhibitions at the Pompidou Centre, numerous sculpture projects and the Len Lye Center itself. But the exhibition in Basel for me captured Evan in his element, side by side with Len Lye's sculpture and sharing his endless love and insight into these works and welcoming everyone else to share the excitement."   - Paul Brobbel