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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.