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Govett-Brewster Foundation 50 Dinner

Issue date: 
Thursday, 29 July 2021
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, CVO, QSO

Whāngaitia te auaha i roto kia tupu, kia puāwai ai.

Nōku te hōnore ki te mihi ki nga ringa raupā,

na rātou te māia ki te whakatinana

te taiwhanga Govett-Brewster mai, i tōna timatanga.

Āku mihi nui mo tēnei whakareretanga kua waiho

mō ngā whakatupuranga e heke mai nei.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.

Nurture the creative within so that it flourishes and blooms.

 I acknowledge those who have been the backbone of the Govett-Brewster Gallery since its inception.

My sincere thanks for the legacy that you have left for future generations.

I specifically acknowledge:

His Worship Neil Holdom, Mayor of the New Plymouth District

Zara Stanhope, Director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

John Leuthart, Chair of the Govett-Brewster Foundation


Thank you for inviting David and me to this evening’s gala dinner.  We’re very pleased to be with you to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Govett-Brewster Gallery.

Tonight, we acknowledge those who have made significant contributions to the Gallery over its proud fifty-year history, and look ahead to a bright future for this great cultural institution.

David and I always look forward to coming to Ngāmotu - New Plymouth.  Always high on our list is a visit to the Govett-Brewster in its beautiful home, here, in the old Regent Theatre building. And the latest jewel in your crown - the spectacular Len Lye Centre.

New Plymouth has a well-earned reputation for being one of New Zealand’s most lively and thriving cultural centres.   The Govett-Brewster Gallery has been a major reason for that and since the opening of the Len Lye Centre six years ago, I think you can fairly claim to be ‘worth the journey’ for any arts lover nationally and, when our borders open once more, internationally.

In the same way that  MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, has made Hobart a hot tourist destination.

During my term as Governor-General, David and I have been fortunate to visit many galleries and museums around the motu. From Waitangi in the North to Rakiura Stewart Island in the South.

On these visits, we often note how communities are so clearly strengthened and enriched by their access to culture.

Whether it’s through a sense of emotional or spiritual connection, a new perspective on a difficult issue, or even simply the delight in seeing something beautiful – the benefits of art are diverse and profound.

Which is why I believe it’s so important that great art doesn’t only exist in our main centres – that it’s found and is accessible right around the country.

At the cornerstone of many of New Zealand’s galleries is an act of great generosity, and the Govett-Brewster is of course no exception.

One of my favourite whakatauki is

He toi whakairo, he mana tangata.

Where there is artistic excellence, there is human dignity.

This was something Monica Brewster clearly understood.

Her two gifts to the people of New Plymouth – to found a public art gallery, and to establish its permanent collection of contemporary art – demonstrated an extraordinary combination of generosity, pragmatism, and imagination.

She was an extraordinary woman: a keen environmentalist and reader, a committed conscientious objector and a smoker of Craven A cigarettes.

Like Monica, the Govett-Brewster confidently blazes its own trail, and I always arrive at exhibitions here expecting to be challenged and provoked, and to leave with my horizons broadened.

David and I particularly enjoyed our last visit to the Gallery earlier this year for the monumental exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata by Brett Graham.  

Being in the presence of those immense, beautiful works was a moving and confronting experience.


I understand that Brett completed the work during his time as the Govett-Brewster Artist in Residence, and his sculptures struck me in their intimate connection to the history and memory of Taranaki: of the Alpha well drilled at Moturoa in 1865; and of Parihaka pā.

They left me thinking about the physical forms we give to memory, how we choose to commemorate painful moments in our history, and how our future might look if we better understood and remembered our past.

These are important questions for us to consider on both an individual and a national level, and to which only art can give such vivid and truthful expression.

Over fifty years the guardians and curators of the Govett Brewster gallery have consistently challenged and delighted us with bold exhibitions of contemporary art.

Add to that the visceral power, flamboyance and technical brilliance of your unmatched collection of Len Lye’s sculptural works,  so splendidly demonstrated earlier this evening.

You are truly a national taonga.     

I congratulate and thank everyone involved with the Govett-Brewster Foundation and Gallery, today, and over the past fifty years, for your staunch commitment to Monica Brewster’s far sighted and generous vision.

I look forward to presenting four very special awards later this evening, to individuals that have made major contributions to the success of the Gallery.

I also commend the Govett-Brewster Foundation on its new membership programme, which seeks to ensure a thriving future for the Gallery and the Len Lye Centre.

At a time of global pandemic, when our arts and culture face great uncertainty, proactive thinking and strong community support couldn’t be more important.

I wish you all every success as you build on the fine, fearless tradition you’ve established over the past 50 years, as you take the Govett-Brewster forward with the audaciousness and excellence for which it has become renowned.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Friday, 30 July 2021

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