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Centenary Of An Outstanding New Zealander

The centennial birthday of the outstanding New Zealand-born artist and filmmaker Len Lye is being commemorated around New Zealand on Thursday 5 July, capping several months of celebrations that began in May with the launch of Len Lye: A Biography (AUP), written by former Lye assistant Dr Roger Horrocks.

The festivities include a centennial birthday party, which is being held at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, and a birthday message from the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Also marking the occasion is the return of a giant Lye sculpture, the 45-metre “Wind Wand”, to the New Plymouth foreshore.

Several exhibitions of Lye’s work are running including The Long Dream of Waking, the most complete exhibition of Lye’s sculpture ever held in New Zealand, at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth, and Colour Box, an exhibition of his hand-made films at the New Zealand Film Archive in Wellington.

Dr Horrocks, of the University of Auckland, commented today: “Lye was an extraordinary New Zealand artist many years ahead of his time. He would have been delighted to know that 21 years after his death, he has at last become ‘a prophet with honour in his own country’.”

When Lye died in New York in 1980 he bequeathed his collection of films, sculptures and writings to New Zealand, to be looked after, on behalf of the public, by a Len Lye Foundation. It is now one of the most important art collections in New Zealand.

The Centennial has helped to make New Zealanders aware of Lye’s extraordinary achievements.

A self-educated Kiwi kid born in Christchurch, Lye went on to become an internationally renowned innovator in filmmaking, painting, sculpture, photography and writing. His constant stream of new ideas, his exuberance, his unique taste in clothes, his quirky turn of phrase, and his free-wheeling personal life made him a legendary figure – a “crazy, excited and exciting guy” (as a fellow artist once described him).

“He was a major figure in the arts who should join our ‘icons’ such as McCahon, Mansfield, Frame – or our Hillarys and Rewi Alleys,” said Dr Horrocks.

“Len Lye stood out even within the colourful worlds of art and film. In the words of painter Julian Trevelyan, ‘He was like a man from Mars who saw everything from a different viewpoint, and it was this that made him original.’”


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