Wellington is known as the ‘cultural capital’ of New Zealand. And a huge part of appreciating culture is appreciating our rich New Zealand art scene.
I’ve loved New Zealand art since high school and am fortunate enough that Wellington has some of the best Art Galleries and Dealer Galleries in Wellington. All these galleries are within a compact walking distance (except for the Dowse). You can stroll through Cuba and Ghuznee Street at your leisure, browsing slowly, and only pausing to sip a flat white.*
There are in fact 55 galleries around and about the city. Here are 12 of my favourites:
1. Wellington City Gallery - Civic Square
Wellington City Gallery is the official gallery of our city. It changes its exhibitions regularly, with no permanent collection. Here you’ll see expertly curated shows with everything from sculpture to video to photography, by the best international and New Zealand artists.
2. Te Papa - Cable Street, Wellington
Te Papa houses a huge amount of New Zealand most famous art works, such as Colin Mccahon and Toss Woollaston. Until recently, only a small fraction was on display. Their new exhibit ‘Toi Art’ is a brilliant display of New Zealand’s own art collection and is well worth a visit.
3. Adam Art Gallery - Kelburn, Wellington
While it’s a bit of a hike up the hill to the University, you’ll find yourself richly rewarded if you make the journey. The Adam Art Gallery sits within the Victoria University Campus and punches well above its weight with serious contemporary exhibitions that change regularly, championing Kiwis. Previous exhibitions include Venice Biennale alumni Simon Denny with his exhibition about Kim Dotcom.
4. Page Blackie Gallery - Victoria Street, Wellington
The Paige Blackie Gallery is located on Victoria Street in the heart of the city and the place to go if you’re after an elegant piece to own by one of New Zealand leading painters or sculptors. Paige Blackie has a long list of the who’s-who of art. Previous exhibits include a series of Dick Frizzell landscapes. They’ve also run evenings for young professionals and those wanting to dip their toe in the art market.
5. Suite Gallery - Cuba Street, Wellington
Suite Gallery is run by David Alsop, a former lawyer turned gallery owner. David has an expert eye at spotting young talent and represented Emily Hartley Skudder and Arie [xxx]. Suite also has the Ans Westra Museum. Ans Westra is one of New Zealand most famous and studied photographers, known for photographing the gangs in rural New Zealand. With a prime spot on upper Cuba Street, this is one not to miss.
6. Peter McLeavey Gallery - Cuba Street, Wellington
The original dealer gallery from Cuba Street was started by Peter McLeavy in 1966. Many consider him and his gallery to be a jewel in the crown of the history of New Zealand art. He inspired and was friends with many famous Kiwi artists like Toss Woollaston and Gordon Walters. The gallery is now run by his daughter and a prime spot to explore artists such as Bill Hammond (who paints ‘the bird people’), Richard Killeen, Yvonne Todd and many others.
7. Avid - Victoria Street, Wellington
If it’s applied arts you’re after, such as jewellery or ceramics, look no further than Avid gallery. Selling talented contemporary artists who work in practical mediums, you will find Barry Clarke, Martin Popperwell and plenty more. Well worth a visit, and a great option for entry level aspiring art collectors.
8. Bartley + Company - Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Off Ghuznee Street sits Bartley + Company, a superb example of Wellington’s eclectic dealer gallery scene. Representing both established and emerging artists such as Cat Auburn and Elliot Collins, Bartley + Company has a warm, relaxed feeling whilst still curating its pieces with expert care. It feels like visiting a relatives home rather than stepping into a dealer gallery.
9. Hamish McKay Gallery - Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Highly respected, Hamish Mackay is known about the city for his list of illustrious artists; Billy Apple, Gavin Hipkins and Shane Cotton and represented by him. A place to go see and be seen.
10. New Zealand Portrait Gallery - Customhouse Quay, Wellington
If you want to learn about the many faces of our nation, look no further than the New Zealand Portrait Gallery. Exhibiting imagery of the New Zealanders who have shaped our national identity, this space often houses travelling photo exhibitions and more.
11. Enjoy Gallery - Left Bank, Cuba Street, Wellington
Enjoy Gallery is a contemporary space focused on emerging and established artists and is often at the cutting edge of experimental work. More than just a gallery, Enjoy does innovative work through offsite programmes, publications and residences. It is popular with both older art connoisseurs and students alike.
12. The Dowse Art Gallery - Lower Hutt
This free museum in the Hutt is devoted to contemporary art. Founded in 1971, it is the Public Art Gallery of the Hutt Valley. It has one of New Zealand’s largest and significant public art collections, numbering over 2000 items. Although a little further away, a trip to the Dowse is always a chance to broaden your mind and knowledge of Kiwi art.
*While I don’t yet own any art from these amazing institutions, I can dream and collect my own prints and pictures while I save up for a Bill Hammond. As such, please note that none of the pictures in this post are actually of the artists described but my own small collection of ‘art’.