A guide to public art galleries

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City breaks for many people include a visit to a public art gallery but there is a wealth of great art in the collections of regional public galleries, too.

As in the main centres, the regional galleries hold regular exhibitions, often focusing on artists with connections to the region. Most also have permanent collections and you’ll find some real treasures in the regions, by New Zealand and international artists.

The actual building is an important feature of public galleries now; they’re less like museums and more likely to be contemporary designs, such as the new Christchurch gallery. Or some are in historic buildings that are worth a visit for their own sake; the lovely Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui, for instance, and Rotorua’s Museum of Art & History, in the old Bath House building.

They’re often located in or near public parks, too, like Whangarei’s Art Museum and Invercargill’s Anderson Park Art Gallery.

Entry to most public art galleries is free, although you’ll generally need to buy a ticket to special exhibitions.

The following is a brief round-up of notable public galleries in New Zealand. In some cases, I have included details of current exhibitions, but this is not intended to be an events listing; to find out more, check each gallery’s website.


Whangarei Art Museum

Whangarei Art Museum was a finalist in the New Zealand Museum Awards 2012 for its relocation and rebrand. Whangarei Art Museum, Te Manawa Toi, holds an extensive collection of major NZ contemporary artists and heritage Northland-related material. Artists include C. F. Goldie, Ralph Hotere, Pat Hanly, a very substantial Adele Younghusband bequest collection plus eight paintings by T. L. Drummond. Whangarei Art Museum also holds regular touring exhibitions.

  • The Hub, 91 Dent St, Town Basin, Whangarei
  • ph: 09 430 4240
  • Open daily 10-4
  • Admission: Free
  • Permanent collection: Selwyn Wilson, Selwyn Muru, Ralph Hotere, Para Matchitt, Buck Nin, C. F. Goldie, Pat Hanly

More info | Where to stay: Whangarei


Auckland Art Gallery

Established in 1888, Auckland’s art gallery was New Zealand’s first public gallery. Recently renovated, Auckland Art Gallery is a beautiful building to visit, with soaring, arched timber ceilings in the new section, a great cafe and learning centre, and many artworks that will delight children as well as adult visitors.

  • Cnr Wellesley and Kitchener streets, Auckland
  • ph: 09 307 7700
  • Open every day 10-5 except Christmas Day
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: 15,000+ works, Durer, Rembrandt, Degas, Hogarth, Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Rita Angus, John Pule, Peter Peryer.

More info | Where to stay: Auckland

Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Manukau City

The public gallery for Manukau City holds exhibitions by local and international artists, working closely with the local community.

  • 13 Reeves Road, Pakuranga, Manukau City
  • ph: 09 577 0138
  • Open 9am-5pm Mon-Thurs; 10am-4.30pm Fri-Sun
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: no

More info | Where to stay: Manukau City| Auckland City


Waikato Museum

The museum is organised into four sections, one of which is Visual Arts. The collection has around 2500 artworks, dating from early colonial New Zealand with a focus on images and artists of the region. Arts Post has three exhibition spaces showing local and new artists.

  • 1 Grantham Street, Hamilton
  • ph: 07 838 6606
  • Open 10-4.30 daily
  • Admission: Free
  • Permanent collection: Dates from the early years of European settlement with particular emphasis on images and artists of the Waikato region.

More info | Where to stay: Hamilton

Bay of Plenty

Rotorua Museum of Art & History

Rotorua’s gallery can be found in Rotorua’s historic Bath House building. Among its permanent collection are taonga of the Arawa people, the original inhabitants of the region, a collection of 70,000 photographs of Rotorua’s history and historic souvenir pieces.

  • Queens Drive, Government Gardens, Rotorua
  • ph: 07 350 1814
  • Open 9-8 (summer), 9-5 (winter)
  • Admission: adult: $12.00, child: $5.50
  • Permanent collection: Historic and contemporary artworks, sculpture, ceramics and craft. 70,000 photos.

More info | Where to stay: Rotorua

Tauranga Art Gallery

The Gallery Trust’s collection includes works by Nigel Brown, Susan Wilson, Mark Braunias, Robin White, Betty Wishart and Don Binney and prints by Nigel Brown, Carole Shepherd and Dick Frizell.

  • cnr Wharf & Willow Street, Tauranga
  • ph: 07 578 7933
  • Open 10-4.30 every day except Christmas Day
  • Admission: Free - donation
  • Permanent collection: Edward Bullmore, Nigel Brown, Susan Wilson, Mark Braunias, Arthur Dagley, Jim Cooper, Robin White, Betty Wishart, Don Binney, Tracey Williams, Vanetta Miles, Yvonne Paine, Irene O’Neill

More info | Where to stay: Tauranga

Whakatane Museum & Art Gallery

There’s a significant collection of taonga Maori here, and displays relating to the area’s history, including colonial, seafaring and migration, Maori weapons and natural history.

  • Boon St, Whakatane
  • ph: 07 306 0505
  • Open 10am-4.30pm Mon–Fri, 11am-3pm weekends and public holidays
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Early technology, colonial Whakatane, New Zealand Wars, seafaring and migration, Maori weapons, Raranga, Maori food, Toi Whakairo and natural history

More info | Where to stay: Whakatane


Govett Brewster Gallery

The gallery houses the archives and studio collection of the Len Lye Foundation, which looks after the works of the film-maker, kinetic sculptor, poet and painter. Also holds regular exhibitions of local, national and international contemporary art.

  • 40 Queen Street, New Plymouth
  • ph: 06 759 6060
  • Open 10-5 except Christmas Day
  • Admission: free, donation
  • Permanent collection: Michael Parekowhai, Ralph Hotere, Jacqueline Fraser, Jim Allen, Anton Parsons, Len Lye, Michael Illingworth, Shane Cotton, Len Lye, Don Driver, Christine Hellyar

More info | Where to stay: New Plymouth

Percy Thompson Gallery

New exhibitions every few weeks.

  • Prospero Place, Miranda St, Stratford
  • ph: 06 765 0917
  • Open 10.30-4 weekdays, 10.30-3 weekends
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: no

More info | Where to stay: New Plymouth


Sarjeant Gallery

Worth a visit even if just to admire the building. Sitting on top of a hill overlooking the town, it was built in 1919 out of Oamaru stone in the shape of a Greek cross. The interior is equally stunning, with a central dome that lets in lots of natural light.

Excellent permanent collection of 19th and early 20th century British and European art. After 1940 the gallery began to focus on New Zealand art, with a strong photographic emphasis. A major feature of the gallery’s collecting policy is that of acquiring the work of selected important individual artists, such as Edith Collier, Philip Trusttum, Gretchen Albrecht, Anne Noble, Laurence Aberhart, Ans Westra and Peter Peryer.

  • Queens Park, Wanganui
  • ph: 06 349 0506
  • Open 10:30am-4:30pm every day. Anzac Day 1-4.30pm.Closed Christmas Day & Good Friday.
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Pat Hanly, Charles Frederick Goldie, Gottfried Lindauer, Petrus Van Der Velden, Gretchen Albrecht, Robert McLeod, Warren Viscoe, Rodney Fumpston

More info | Where to stay: Wanganui

East Cape

Tairawhiti Museum

The museum’s permanent collection focuses on items that originate from and have a strong asssociation with the Tairawhiti region, and includes paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculpture and photography.

  • Kelvin Rise, Stout Street, Gisborne
  • ph: 06 867 3832
  • Open Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sun and public holidays, 1.30-4pm
  • Admission: Admission: $5, $2 locals, children 12 and under free. Free entry on Mondays.
  • Permanent collection: See above

More info | Where to stay: Gisborne

Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery

Permanent exhibitions include ‘Twentieth century design in the home’, ‘Nga Tukemata - The Awakening’ and ‘Living on The Edge: Hawke’s Bay Earthquake, 1931’.

  • 9 Herschell Street, Napier
  • ph: 06 835 7781
  • Open 10-6 every day. Late night Thursday open until 8pm Closed Christmas Day
  • Admission: $10 adult, $8 students, children 5-15 $5 free for under fives
  • Permanent collection: The collection represents a period of collection from pre-1960-2009 and includes Taonga Maori, Social & NZ History, Fine Arts, Library and Regional Archive.

More info | Where to stay: Napier


Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art & History

Among the gallery’s permanent collection is The Rutherford Art Collection, which includes works by Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Rita Angus, Max Gimblett, John Weeks and Toss Woollaston.

  • Bruce Street, Masterton
  • ph: 06 370 0001
  • Open seven days 10-4.30, closed Christmas Day, Good Friday
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: yes

More info | Where to stay: Wairarapa


City Gallery

The gallery has no permanent exhibition, but holds exhibitions by major New Zealand and international artists such as Shane Cotton and Colin McCahon. The refurbished gallery (which reopened at the end of September) has new exhibition spaces focusing on Wellington and Maori and Pacific artists.

  • Civic Square, 101 Wakefield Street, Wellington
  • ph: 04 801 3021
  • Open daily 10-5
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: no

More info | Where to stay: Wellington

The New Dowse

Permanent collection of more than 3000 works, with a focus on object/craft – ceramics, glass, graphic design, fashion, photography and more.

  • 45 Laings Road, Lower Hutt
  • ph: 04 570 6500
  • Open Mon-Fri 10-4.30, Sat-Sun 10-5
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Focus on object/craft plus rotating works from Wallace Arts Trust Collection.

More info | Where to stay: Wellington


Millennium Art Gallery

Permanent collection of works by artists with a connection to Marlborough, including Bill Culbert, Iosefa Leo, J S Parker, Don Peebles, Marilynn Webb, John Drawbridge and Toss Woollaston.

  • Corner of Seymour and Alfred Streets, Blenheim
  • ph: 03 579 2001
  • Open Mon-Fri 10.30-4.30, Sat-Sun 1-4
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Bill Culbert, Iosefa Leo, J S Parker, Don Peebles, Marilynn Webb, John Drawbridge, Toss Woollaston

More info | Where to stay: Marlborough


Suter Art Gallery

The Suter’s collection includes New Zealand’s largest collection of watercolours by 19th century landscape artist, John Gully (1819-1888), works by Toss Woollaston (1919-1998) and an exhibition by leading ceramicists.

  • 208 Bridge Street, Nelson
  • ph: 03 548 4699
  • Open seven days 10.30-4.30, closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday
  • Admission: $3 adults, $1 students, 50c children. Free every Saturday
  • Permanent collection: John Gully, Toss Woollaston, Jane Evans, Gottfried Lindauer, Colin McCahon, C. F. Goldie.

More info | Where to stay: Nelson


Christchurch Art Gallery

The South Island’s largest art institution opened in 2003 in the centre of the city’s cultural precinct. It also holds several major exhibitions each year of New Zealand artists.

  • Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch
  • ph: 03 941 7300
  • Open 10-5
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Frances Hodgkins, Ralph Hotere, Rita Angus, William Sutton, Michael Parekowhai, Michel Tuffery, Evelyn Page, Petrus van der Velden.

More info | Where to stay: Christchurch

COCA – Centre for Contemporary Art, Christchurch

Several exhibitions a year of new and established artists, and gallery space dedicated to art by schoolchildren.

  • 66 Gloucester St, Christchurch
  • ph: 03 366 7261
  • Open Tues-Fri: 10-5pm, Sat-Sun: 12pm-4pm
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Dick Frizzell, Fane Flaws, Philip Trusttum, Doris Lusk

More info | Where to stay: Christchurch

Aigantighe Art Gallery

Aigantighe Art Gallery has the South Island’s third largest public art museum collection, which includes New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art works from the 16th century to the present, including C. F. Goldie, Frances Hodgkins and Colin McCahon. It also has an important collection of 19th century British paintings and a costume room. The gallery holds 23 regional, national and international exhibitions each year.

  • 49 Wai-iti Road, Timaru
  • ph: 03 688 4424
  • Open Tues-Fri: 10-4pm, Sat-Sun: 12pm-4pm. Closed Monday
  • Admission: free.
  • Permanent collection: Jacqueline Fahey, Petrus van der Velden, C. F. Goldie, Colin McCahon, Frances Hodgkins, Toss Woollaston.

More info | Where to stay: Timaru


Forrester Gallery

The Forrester is housed in one of Oamaru’s distinctive whitestone buildings, built in 1884. The gallery’s permanent display includes 16 works by Colin McCahon and 14 by E. A. Gifford (1819-1894).

  • 9 Thames St, Oamaru
  • ph: 03 03 433 0853
  • Open 10.30-4.30. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Large Colin McCahon collection, E. A. Gifford

More info | Where to stay: Waitaki

Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Dunedin’s gallery has a superb permanent collection of British and European painters since the 15th century, including Machiavelli, Claude Lorraine, Rosa, Monet, Pissarro, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner and Burne-Jones; as well as Japanese prints, and decorative arts. New Zealand artists shown here include Frances Hodgkins, C.F. Goldie, Rita Angus, Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, Ralph Hotere, Richard Killeen and Philip Trusttum.

  • 30 The Octagon, Dunedin
  • ph: 03 477 4000
  • Open 10-5. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Monet, Pissarro, Gainsborough, Turner, Petrus van der Velden, C.F. Goldie, Rita Angus, Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, Ralph Hotere, Richard Killeen, Philip Trusttum, Jacqueline Fraser, Peter Robinson, Michael Parekowhai, Frances Hodgkins

More info | Where to stay: Dunedin


Southland Museum & Art Gallery

Regular exhibitions by national and international artists, plus Roaring 40s Gallery, Burt Munro - tribute to a Southern motorcycle legend, and the Maori gallery.

  • 108 Gala Street, Invercargill
  • ph: 03 219 9065
  • Open Mon-Fri 8.30-5, Sat-Sun 10-5
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: yes

More info | Where to stay: Southland

Anderson Park Art Gallery

Invercargill’s public gallery has an extensive collection of New Zealand Art. The gallery holds a spring exhibition each October and smaller exhibitions during the year. It’s set in a 24-hectare park, featuring a traditional carved Maori house, a duck pond and children’s playground.

  • McIvor Road, Invercargill
  • ph: 03 215 7432
  • Open daily 10-30-5pm. Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Focuses on quality art from the far south and throughout New Zealand

More info | Where to stay: Southland

Eastern Southland Gallery

Kevin Roberts of Saatchi and Saatchi dubbed this gallery the “Goreggenheim”. Its permanent exhibitions include The Ralph Hotere Gallery, and The John Money Collection, a collection of more than 300 New Zealand, Australian, African and American works of art donated by expatriate Dr John Money.

  • Cnr Hokonui Drive & Norfolk Street, Gore
  • ph: 03 208 9907
  • Open Mon-Fri 10-4.30, Sat-Sun and public holidays 1-4. Closed 25, 26 Dec, 1 Jan and Good Friday
  • Admission: free
  • Permanent collection: Spans 100 years of southern art history. John Money collection, Ralph Hotere Gallery

More info | Where to stay: Southland

For details of exhibitions see our Events section.

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rotorua art gallery
Rotorua Museum of Art & History Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa

Govett Brewster Gallery
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Photo: Rob Tucker

City Gallery
City Gallery Wellington, Civic Square

Suter Gallery
Suter Gallery, Nelson

Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Neil Dawson Cones 2001. Steel, recycled kauri, aluminium expanded mesh, clear acrylic, polyurethane paint.
Collection Dunedin Public Art Gallery


Piwa perched