Follow a culture trail to New Zealand's best art experiences

Visitors on the art trail in New Zealand should prepare for the unexpected, along with intriguing insights into a country and its people.

Visitors on the art trail in New Zealand should prepare for the unexpected, along with intriguing insights into a country and its people.

Art comes in many shapes and forms and can be an intriguing insight into a country and its people, and the New Zealand art scene is no different. Whether it’s larger than life graffiti-inspired street art to a gallery masterpiece, to classic or a unique cultural  work, wherever you go throughout New Zealand there’s a trail of creativity to be discovered with a unique story.

Auckland Art Gallery - Toi o Tamaki - occupies one of Auckland's iconic buildings - a blend of heritage and contemporary architecture that is home to the largest permanent collection of New Zealand art. More info.

When New Zealand’s biggest airport commissioned one of the country’s most important artists to paint a piece for the Auckland Arrivals Terminal, the result was New Zealand’s largest mural with an enduring theme that evoked non-stop, long-distance air travel. The year was 1977, the artist Ralph Hotere and the artwork ‘The Flight of the Godwit’. For nearly 20 years the 18 metre long mural greeted visitors and welcomed rturning citizens home and now the renamed artwork is on display at Auckland Art Gallery. Godwit/Kuaka
Sat 20 Oct 2018 — Sun 30 Jun 2019.  More info.

Opened in 2015, the Govett-Brewster art gallery and Len Lye centre was built in honour of its namesake Len Lye, a pioneering filmmaker and kinetic sculptor. It is New Zealand’s first institution dedicated to a single artist and provides a permanent home for Lye’s work of more than 18,000 items. Designed by architect Andrew Patterson, the centre is a magnet for photographers and echoes Len Lye’ s use of metal in many of his kinetic sculptures. More info.

One of New Zealand’s most impressive artworks, the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings have an equally extraordinary story behind them. When master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell came to the end of a 10-year training with his Maori elders, he came to Lake Taupo to mark the occasion in his grandmother’s land. The main carving is of his ancestor Ngatoroirangi, a visionary Māori navigator who guided the Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupō area over a thousand years ago. More info.

Wrapped around the ever-changing Kaipara Harbour lies Gibbs Farm, a private collection of 18 sculptures from some of the world’s most prolific artists, including works by Anish Kapoor, Len Lye and Andy Goldsworthy. This image shows ‘Horizons’ by Neil Dawson, one of the earliest sculptures to be commissioned for Gibbs Farm. More info.

The recently opened Toi Art, Te Papa’s new art gallery, is a game changer for the New Zealand art scene and is predicted to attract 1.5 million visitors per year. Toi Art features works by Michael Parekowhai, with must-see new art by Tiffany Singh, Janet Lilo, Jeena Shin, BodyCartography Project, and Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi, alongside the national art collection. More info.

The freshly minted Sculptureum in Matakana, opened in 2017, is a newcomer to the Auckland art scene, but it is already home to an outstandingly impressive private collection that includes works by Cézanne, Chagall and Rodin. Seen here is ‘Blooming Buckets’ by John Ferguson. More info.  

Primarily based in Rotorua, New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) is the home of the national schools of carving (including pounamu and bone) and weaving. The Institute aims to encourage and promote all types of Māori arts, craft, performance and culture. More info.

Initiated by ex-pat George Shaw who has a passion for street art, Christchurch’s city centre has seen a colourful transformation in recent years. The city boasts more than 50 major murals and is now one of the biggest street art scenes in the southern hemisphere. Vistors can go on a “street art trail” and experience Christchurch’s regeneration through the spectacular art in the city’s streets. More info.

Dunedin city also boasts an impressive Art Trail with 28 vibrant works that explore the city’s historic and creative influences on walls around the warehouse precinct.  More info.