New Zealand has a vibrant and thriving arts scene, and Kiwi artists and performers are known for their avant-garde flair, quirky sense of humour and unconventional approaches.
Arts festivals are a way for Kiwis to show off their originality to the world on a large scale - as well as an opportunity for visitors to experience the best of the New Zealand creative scene all in one spot.
These events bring together a collaboration of local and international artists, designers, muscians and performers - resulting in an exciting melting pot of shows, exhibitions, music and art.
There are many galleries and studios dotted throughout New Zealand - and each region has its own eccentric and unique artistic personalities and stories to tell.
The South Island city of Christchurch is proving to be a key player in the New Zealand art scene, hosting some of the most exciting and diverse arts events in the country.
Nelson, at the top of the South Island, is known for its inspirational landscapes and creative environment. The region itself is home to many of the country’s top artists and craftspeople.
In the sunny Hawke’s Bay region, Napier is New Zealand’s ‘Art Deco capital’, so-called because the entire town was rebuilt from scratch in the distinctive 1930s style after a massive earthquake in 1931. Many heritage buildings have been preserved as living architectural history, and each February thousands of visitors head to Napier for the annual Tremains Art Deco Weekend - a not too serious celebration of the Art Deco style and times.
Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland, is home to many artists and sculptors seeking refuge from the big city. There are more than 70 working artists in residence on the island, many of whom exhibit their works at Artworks in the Waiheke Community Gallery and there's the biennial Sculpture on the Gulf outdoor sculpture trail.
East of Auckland, on the Coromandel Peninsula, the late Kiwi potter Barry Brickell created a unique tourist destination with his Driving Creek Railway and Pottery. The 60-minute narrow gauge mountain railway travels through kauri forest to spectacular panoramic views that's a one-of-a-kind art and environmental experience.
Arts festival highlights 2019 - 2020
Splore - Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
21 - 24 February, 2019
Splore, one of Auckland’s most loved events, returns annually to the picturesque beachfront of Takapakanga Regional Park. This diverse festival is renowned for its rich programme of art, music and contemporary culture, set within a natural coastal backdrop.
Visitors to Splore can dance in the warmth of the ocean while listening to local musical talent; enjoy performances ranging from cabaret to comedy, circus and theatre, and marvel at visual arts that demand interaction. Dressing up is also encouraged and adds to the family festival atmosphere of this truly unique event.
New Zealand International Arts Festival - Wellington
21 February - 15 March, 2020
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is known to be a centre of creativity, and it is never more cool than when the biennial NZ International Arts Festival is in town. This event brings Wellington to life with over 300 events in indoor and outdoor spaces around the city. This leading Australasia multi-arts event celebrates some of the world’s top artists whilst also nurturing New Zealand’s local talent. The first line-up of artists will be announced in September 2019.
New Zealand International Arts Festival
New Zealand Fringe Festival - Wellington
1 - 23 March, 2019
Held annually in Wellington, the New Zealand Fringe Festival is a community based open-access festival promoting some of the most creative people the creative capital has to offer.
For 20-plus years the New Zealand Fringe Festival has been providing a platform for some of Wellington’s most diverse, thought-provoking and contemporary artists. The festival, that showcases music, theatre, dance and visual arts is held in venues around the city and has been the launch pad for the likes of the Flight of the Conchords and New Zealand actor and comedian Rhys Darby.
New Zealand Fringe Festival
WOMAD - New Plymouth
15 - 17 March, 2019
Known as the ‘world’s festival’, WOMAD brings together a selection of some of the biggest artists from round the globe with the aim of celebrating different forms of music, art and dance.
It's held in the beautiful surroundings of New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park (a New Zealand 'Garden of National Significance). The 2019 festival will be the 15th edition in New Zealand. Much more than music, WOMAD is an experience that is enriched with tastes from around the world, workshops and an ‘artists in conversation’ programme.
Dunedin Fringe Festival - Dunedin
21 - 31 March, 2019
Dunedin vibrates with artistic activity and creativity during the 10-day Dunedin Fringe Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the South Island. Known for featuring experimental and innovative art forms of all kinds, the 2019 festival is set to be bigger, brighter and better than ever as an estimated 200 artists from New Zealand and around the world showcase their unique talents.
Dunedin Fringe Festival website
Auckland Festival of Photography
31 May - 16 June, 2019
Auckland’s annual Festival of Photography is a stunning signature visual arts event that provides a unique insight into one of New Zealand’s largest and most multi-cultural cities. The lengthy event is the biggest of its kind in New Zealand and includes a programme of exhibitions and events. These include free and professionally curated exhibitions.
Auckland Festival of Photography
Brancott World of WearableArt (WOW) - Wellington
26 September - 13 October, 2019
Dubbed ‘Mardi Gras meets haute couture’, New Zealand’s WOW or World of WearableArt is a uniquely Kiwi event mixing high fashion and art in a spectacular stage show. This dazzling show lists on the international calendar and attracts entries and audiences from all over the world.
Although the event is now held in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, it had humble beginnings, starting in Nelson when local sculptor Suzie Moncrieff came up with the idea of taking art from the gallery wall to adorn the human body. A year-round museum honouring the history of this visual extravaganza has been established in Nelson, housing collections from finalists and winners for the past 20-something years.
World of WearableArt website
Otago Festival of the Arts - Otago
September - October, 2020 (TBC)
This biennial art festival started in 2000 as a way of bringing some of the world’s best artists and performers to the Otago region. The 10-day festival programme includes music, theatre, dance and visual art exhibitions at galleries around Dunedin. Many local artists hold exhibitions during the festival.
Otago Arts Festival website
NZ Garden and Art Festival - Tauranga
November, 2020 (TBC)
The NZ Garden and Art Festival is a a biennial event that successfully combines the wonder of art and nature. With over 40 gardens to explore, work by acclaimed local artists to view and a new exhibition and entertainment hub, this vibrant and colourful festival has something for everyone. Next edition will be in November 2020.
NZ Garden and Art Festival