Len Lye Foundation

The Len Lye Foundation preserves and promotes the artist's legacy - his kinetic sculptures, films and other art works, and extensive archive - through and beyond the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery | Len Lye Centre.

Before Len Lye died in 1980, he arranged to give his large collection of work “for the public benefit of the people of New Zealand.”

He created the Len Lye Foundation (registered in New Zealand as a non-profit incorporated society) to oversee this legacy.

The Len Lye Foundation was entrusted by the artist with:

  •  Promoting the artist’s work and ideas
  •  Keeping his kinetic sculpture in working order
  •  Building work he had planned but not been able to realize during his lifetime
  •  Representing the artist in matters of copyright, provenance, research, publication, etc.

Lye gave the Foundation the responsibility of standing in for him in these matters and helping generally to promote his legacy.

The Foundation has been involved in preparing museum and gallery exhibitions and film screenings around the world. All exhibitions of sculpture have drawn upon the technical expertise of the Foundation. And it has also been carrying out the artist’s request that large versions of his sculpture should be built in accordance with his plans, drawings or maquettes.

The New Plymouth connection

Len Lye made return trips to Aotearoa in 1968 and 1977, and during the second of those trips worked with a New Plymouth team, led by Foundation Trustee John Matthews, to build sculptures for display at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

Lye was so pleased with the results that he decided to leave his collection of art to the people of New Zealand, to be held at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, under the supervision of the Len Lye Foundation.

The connection was substantiated in legal terms on 24 April 1980 when the artist, the Len Lye Foundation and the New Plymouth City Council, entered into a Deed of Gift, at which point Lye transferred the ownership and copyright of all the works owned by him at that time to the Foundation, for the public benefit of the people of New Zealand. The artist died a few weeks later.

In that Deed the Council accepted the responsibility of providing for the storage, access and display of the works in New Plymouth. Since 1980, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, owned by the Council, has performed this task, in close association with the Len Lye Foundation.

The Foundation has always enjoyed a close working relationship with the Council and the gallery. To formalize the relationship, a Len Lye Committee was established, made up of members appointed equally by the Council and the Foundation.

In February 2022 the Len Lye and New Plymouth District Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding which sets out the working relationship between the two entities. This relationship shapes the care and protection of Lye's artworks and archives, development of new exhibitions and artworks, and the enhancement and promotion of Len Lye into the future.