Culture in the capital: the best museums and galleries to explore in Wellington

When you think of Wellington, arts and culture are at the forefront of any experience. Whether it’s the lost nightlife of the 80s, musical talent emerging from local bars or some of the country’s most renowned artists, there are good reasons why Wellington has been dubbed ‘the little capital’. world’s coolest” by Lonely Planet.

If you visit Wellington, a taste of this culture is a must. It could be a night at the theater, or it could be a busker you pass on the windy seafront. But more than likely, you’ll discover your culture in some of the city’s best museums and galleries. If you’re not sure where to start, this quick guide to Wellington promises to make your trip all cultural, stress-free.

Te Papa Tongarewa: Museum of New Zealand

The Private Jack Dunn exhibition at Gallipoli, The Scale of Our War exhibition at Te Papa.

Dominion Post

The Private Jack Dunn exhibition at Gallipoli, The Scale of Our War exhibition at Te Papa.

Our National Museum is truly a national treasure and something every visitor to the capital should explore. You will find children across the country who have fond memories of the earthquake house on school trips and it still exists today. But alongside the permanent installations that display everything from a colossal squid to the incredible Gallipoli exhibit, you’ll find some of the country’s most awe-inspiring historical works and stories. Currently, Lisa Reihana chasing venus [infected] uses modern technology to challenge the Eurocentric narrative of wallpaper produced by Joseph Dufour in 1804.

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Wellington Civic Gallery

Matarau is the new exhibition at City Gallery Wellington.

Elias Rodriguez

Matarau is the new exhibition at City Gallery Wellington.

Famous in recent years for Ronnie van Hout Almost, the giant hand that looms over the entrance, this gallery easily houses some of the most wonderful exhibits I have ever seen. Free to all, but with donations encouraged, this multifunctional space features works ranging from film and photography to sculpture and mixed media, often finding convergence and just the right balance.

Enjoy the contemporary art space

In Cuba’s always-cool neighborhood, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space began its story in 2000 as an artist-run space. Maintaining this energy over the past two decades, the space has evolved to include publishing and events. The non-profit organization is dedicated to developing and promoting contemporary art practice in the city. It’s a cool place to stop by and discover, as you’re always guaranteed to discover new works by an emerging artist.

Space Place – Carter Observatory

Children driving the spaceship simulator at Space Place.


Children driving the spaceship simulator at Space Place.

For science freaks and space fanatics, it’s a little out of reach for a regular museum, but no less worthy of a visit. Space Place is at the Carter Observatory, at the top of the famous cable car and at the entrance to the Wellington Botanic Garden. What makes this space so beautiful, aside from the observatory itself, is the immersive experience where no matter what time of day you can experience more of the sheer magnificence of the surrounding universe. This should be a must on any list, especially for a visit with children.

New Zealand Portrait Gallery

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Food artist Caitlin le Harivel hosted an edible art exhibition at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in November.

For those seeking solace in traditional portraiture, the New Zealand Portrait Gallery is a must visit. Here you can encounter stories of New Zealanders through portraiture, in a unique blend of art and artifacts. In Shed 11, a historic building on Wellington’s waterfront, this incredible collection has been fully preserved with the support of donations, volunteers and government grants to secure a long-term lease on the building it now inhabits. .

Sound and Vision Ngā Taonga

Cinema has helped put our capital on the international map. We all know the big successes like the Lord of the Ringsor more localized hits like Boy, but a comprehensive collection of New Zealand works? It’s rare. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision houses the New Zealand Film, Television and Sound Archive. It is the audiovisual treasure of our country, covering the history of cinema, radio and television. But it’s not just for the industry to look into; the incredible curators have opened this collection to anyone who wants to discover our past.

Wellington Museum

The Wellington Museum lives in an 1892 heritage building on the waterfront.

Rosa Woods / Stuff

The Wellington Museum lives in an 1892 heritage building on the waterfront.

Not to be confused with our national museum, the one in Wellington offers a unique history of the capital. Housed in the beautiful 1892 heritage building designed by famed architect Frederick of Jersey Clere, the architecture is just the start of the capital’s history. Learn about the city’s maritime history, from the creation of the iconic waterfront to the tragic story of the Wahine disaster, and take time to discover what life was like in Pōneke before colonization.

Adam Art Gallery – Victoria University

Nestled in the middle of Victoria University’s Kelburn campus is the Adam Art Gallery, a purpose-built space to inject the arts into student life. It initiates, produces and presents a highly acclaimed program of exhibitions, events and publications; manages and develops the University’s art collection and provides a vital platform for critical thinking across media, disciplines, cultures and contexts. But it is not just for students, the gallery is open to everyone from Tuesday to Sunday and offers a learning approach to art.

Katherine Mansfield’s House and Garden

Katherine Mansfield's home opened to the public in 1988.


Katherine Mansfield’s home opened to the public in 1988.

Katherine Mansfield is a Pōneke literary icon and no museum visit would be complete without a visit to the house and garden that gave birth to some of the country’s greatest works. The house, tucked away in Thorndon behind the Parliament Buildings and the traditionally less arts-focused end of town, offers something for everyone – from historians to garden and literature enthusiasts.

Kura Gallery

With galleries in Auckland and Wellington, Kura Gallery has been a home showcasing Maori art and Maori artists since 1998. The gallery serves as both an exhibition and retail space to overflow with traditional Maori carvings and contemporary, original works of art, original design, extraordinary jewelry. , furniture and genuine pounamu/greenstone sculptures that weave together our collective history.

The Dowse Museum of Art

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The Maiangi Waitai: Atea-a-Rangi at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt in 2019.

Away from the centralized chaos of downtown Wellington, the Dowse Art Museum makes a trip to Lower Hutt worthwhile. Another space that focuses its attention on contemporary art, you can expect to find everything from fine art to fashion. Current exhibits include Fiona Pardington’s te whitinga o te pō (the shining lady of the night), an exhibition presenting a series of works exploring the huia which have now disappeared, and She pouredfeaturing the work of seven contemporary wool artisans.

Bartley + Art Company

Tucked away on Garrett Street, you’d be forgiven for walking past Bartley + Company Art, but aficionados and collectors know this is the place to visit if you’re looking for something to take home. The gallery’s philosophy is: “Any gallery is only as good as the company it keeps.” Bartley & Company Art values ​​the company of artists and the company of viewers, supporters and collectors.

Cable Car Museum

Take the Wellington Cable Car to the museum.


Take the Wellington Cable Car to the museum.

While kids can have fun with a simple cable car ride, those looking to experience another side of Wellington’s history will find it at the Cable Car Museum. Both a museum and an engine room, here you can discover all the bells and whistles that keep the car running.

Page Galleries

Page Galleries is another contemporary shopping gallery adored by curators, as it represents some of the country’s top artists, such as Dick Frizzell and Toss Woollaston. Initially focused on historical works of art, the gallery quickly established itself as an authority on fine art. Today, Page Galleries focuses heavily on the secondary market, with resales of important works by artists such as Rita Angus and Colin McCahon. Consider this your go-to space for pre-loved paintings.

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