Street Art and More – An Art Lover’s Guide to Wellington

Cuba Street, Wellington
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Whether your taste is for paintings, street art or buildings, Wellington is a perfect destination for art lovers. The streets are full of sculptures and installations. There is Art Deco architecture, and graffiti as you’ve never seen it before. There are murals in public buildings and, of course, there are the galleries and museums.

Cuba Street, Wellington
Cuba Street in Wellington is almost a work of art in itself

Sculptures and Installations in Wellington

There’are sculptures everywhere. Like Invisible City, two giant stainless steel blocks with braille marking, a tactile statement of urban communication issues. Or Woman of Words, a celebration of local author Katherine Mansfield. Then there is Kumutoto Stream, an audio installation where you walk into a tunnel to the sounds of a stream running through the bush.

Woman of Words
Woman of Words
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Many of the sculptures evoke Wellington’s Maori and colonial heritage, as well as the natural environment. The Tower Sculptures near the Parliament Building have a Maori navigation theme, with a waka (canoe), and a stone altar of the type that Maoris traditionally built when landing at a new place. And the Rugby World Cup sculpture on Jervois Quay shows the city as “dynamically caught between the sea and the sky”.

Tower Sculptures
The Tower Sculptures

Exploring Cuba Street

Cuba Street is Wellington’s liveliest street, with buskers, shops and restaurants. It has its own artworks: one of the first things you see is a massive multi coloured umbrella propped up on the pavement. Then you come to the Bucket Fountain, a fast moving mechanical sculpture with tumbling buckets of water.

Bucket Fountain
Pinnacle image of the Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street

But Cuba Street is a work of art in itself, a dazzling mixture of architectural styles with a preponderance of pastel coloured Art Deco buildings. In fact you will find Art Deco architecture all round Wellington; around 200 new buildings were constructed in the 1920s and 30s. Close to Cuba Street is Luke’s Lane, where you can see a quite different sort of art. The sides of the buildings – including a multi-storey car park – are covered with vibrant graffiti and street art.

Luke's Lane, Wellington
Graffiti covered walls of Luke’s Lane

Galleries and Public Buildings

Not all of the art is outside. Wellington has a wealth of art in public buildings – pick up the Secret Art Walk leaflet at the i-Site Tourist Information Office to discover murals like Music has Charms in the foyer of the City Chambers, or Colours of Fun in the New Public Trust Building. And, if you’re ready to stop for a drink, try the Backbencher Pub opposite the Parliament Building. Its walls are festooned with caricatures of politicians past and present.

Te Marae, Wellington
Detail of Te Marae

Of course, like any major city, Wellington has plenty of art galleries. I enjoyed the exhibitions at The City Gallery, with its mixture of New Zealand and international art. Then I moved on to Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand. One of the highlights here was Te Marae, a stunning contemporary interpretation of a Maori meeting place. It was a modern take on an old tradition, by a city with a modern approach to art.

Colours of Fun
Colours of Fun, a vibrant mural

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4 thoughts on “Street Art and More – An Art Lover’s Guide to Wellington”

  1. I’ve never been to Wellington. While I generally don’t put off travel, New Zealand is a place I intend to visit once I retire. The problem is, as a teacher, I’d have to go in our summer vacation, which is winter there. I’d especially love to see that bucket fountain. It looks like fun!

  2. New Zealand is still on our radar and every time I read a post about this amazing country I want to pack a suitcase and GO! Wellington looks like it’s well worth a visit and maybe even spending a couple of days there to see the art museums and architecture. Love the “Woman of Words” sculpture!

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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