The Collection

Lye is best known as a filmmaker and kinetic sculptor and many of these works can be seen on the Works page.  But he also sketched prolifically (drawings he called "doodles") and produced paintings and batiks related to his ideas about "Old Brain" mythology. They range in time from the 1920s to the 1970s.

His book cover designs (mostly for Robert Graves and Laura Riding’s Seizin Press) also derive from his highly original doodles and fascination with cellular life.

There are hundreds of photographs and slides in the collection. Notable is a striking series of photogram portraits Lye created in 1947 (photos made directly onto photographic paper without the use of a camera). The subjects are friends and colleagues such as W H Auden, Joan Miró, Hans Richter, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Le Corbusier.

Lye wrote prolifically and left many essays and poems – some published but many in manuscript form. He also made reel-to-reel tape recordings of his theories and ideas. This material provides a rich record of the life and work of one of the most original thinkers of the 20th Century.

The Collection:


Other Collections

“Meet my family. My work is my family they follow me they keep my mind's layers accessible to me. I travel my nurseried layers as others use one level crossings. So consciousness' corridors glimmer. Not much electric light laid on either.”  - Len Lye

In addition to the large collection held at the Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth, the artist’s works can be found in various public and private collections.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, in Wellington New Zealand, (formerly known as the New Zealand Film) is the principal repository of Lye’s films. It has supplied them to many festivals and other exhibitors around the world. The Museum of Modern Art and the BFI National Archive also have important collections of Lye’s films and related material.

Film distributors who hold a range of Lye’s films include Light Cone in Paris, LUX in London and Canyon Cinema in San Francisco.

In terms of sculpture, Universe can be seen at the Auckland Art Gallery. Several overseas museums in the USA have his work in their collections.  Loop (a precursor to Universe) is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo has a version of Grass. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York has a beautiful small Fountain, and the Berkeley Art Museum in California has an earlier, smaller version of Trilogy. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art owns a small Fountain.

Other sculptures are in private collections (such as the Alan Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park) or public outdoor locations (such as the 45-metre Wind Wand on the Coastal Walkway in New Plymouth).

Part of the Foundation’s work is to assist in any restoration or repair of Lye’s work that may be required.

Other Collections: