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New Zealand art shows in top Australian galleries

Media Release

New Zealand art shows in top Australian galleries

In a major first for New Zealand art, works by the late, internationally renowned artist Len Lye will tour major Australian art museums over the next year.

The exhibition titled Len Lye opens at one of the best known art museums in the Southern Hemisphere, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney on 1 December in honour of this year’s centenary of Len Lye’s birth. From there it tours to the Monash University Art Gallery in Melbourne and the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane.

Judith Tizard, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, commends this latest recognition of Lye who lived for some years in Sydney in the 1920s before moving to London.

“It is exciting to see the interest around the world in New Zealand’s greatest artist and Australia is reflecting that with this exhibition tour. It is recognition of this most important artist in the centenary year of his birth,” says Ms Tizard.

“Len Lye said growing up in New Zealand made him the artist he was and I think it is important for us at the bottom of the Pacific to celebrate and explore what has formed us as creative societies and as people.”

Greg Burke, Director of the contemporary Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth which houses the extensive holdings of the Len Lye Foundation, says a tour of major Australian art museums is an honour accorded few artists internationally.

“This is the first major exhibition of Lye’s work in Australia and a real milestone,” says Mr Burke.

“The Len Lye Foundation has long sought an exhibition in Australia in a museum of significance. The touring exhibition will highlight Lye’s enduring significance as an artist working in film, photo-media and sculpture and profile the ongoing work of the Foundation.”

Professor Roger Horrocks who once worked as Lye’s assistant and recently wrote his biography Len Lye, says the centenary of Lye’s birth has already been celebrated with exhibitions in many parts of New Zealand and with screenings of his films in the United States.

“It’s wonderful that the centenary will now be celebrated in Australia,” says Professor Horrocks, a Len Lye Foundation Trustee and head of the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at the University of Auckland.

“Lye was a great innovator and in the mid-1920s he was one of the most radical modern artists in our part of the world.”

The outcome of two year’s negotiations, the show is a joint project between the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Judy Annear, a senior curator at the New South Wales gallery, has curated the exhibition, while the Govett-Brewster and Lye Foundation have helped with research and exhibition and tour preparation.

It comprises 12 of Lye’s groundbreaking experimental films, 21 exceptional photograms and three kinetic sculptures.

During the Sydney Festival in January the New South Wales gallery will premiere Len Lye’s 1929 animation film Tusalava with Eugene Goossen’s score Rhythmic Dance (1927) for two pianos, performed live by two pianists. The score to this seminal film, inspired by Aboriginal motifs, has been lost and in recent decades it has been shown as a silent film. However, the Foundation has recently found correspondence from Lye authorizing the alternative use of this rhythmic dance by English composer Goossens.

During the same evening other classic 16mm Lye films will be screened, including the first public screening of All Souls’ Carnival. Unfinished when Lye died this film has been edited posthumously over the past six months.

The Australian tour is another major event in the Len Lye centenary project activities, which have included the launch of the Len Lye biography by Professor Roger Horrocks, the reinstallation of the Wind wand (built to Lye’s design) on the New Plymouth foreshore and the centenary art exhibition at the Govett-Brewster The Long Dream of Waking.

The New Plymouth District Council, via the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, cares for and houses the Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive. Creative NZ has supported the Australian exhibition.

Following the Australian tour the exhibition will tour New Zealand.

For further information contact:

Greg Burke, Director
06 758 5149


Miriam Jardine, Business Development Manager
06 759 0852

© Scoop Media

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