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In the 20th Century, when realism and honesty about local life became key themes, artists like Rita Angus, Colin McCahon and Toss Woollaston came to prominence.
Today, painters such as Shane Cotton, who incorporates Māori themes in his work to represent shared Māori and Pakeha experiences, are celebrated. Particularly renowned galleries include the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui, The Suter Art Gallery in Nelson (one of New Zealand’s oldest galleries), Christchurch Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. The World of WearableArt™ Gallery in Nelson showcases the full force of Kiwi creativity in the garment collection from the annual World of WearableArt™ Awards Show. A great way to experience arts and crafts is by visiting a workshop. Many studios offer visitors the opportunity to try weaving – for example, at Te Puia in Rotorua – or carving; Hokitika on the West Coast is renowned for jade carving workshops. There are good art and craft trails in Kerikeri and Nelson, but for a comprehensive list, visit arttrails.co.nz.
The home of New Zealand’s visual arts is the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki. Founded in 1888, it is the country’s largest art institution, with a collection of more than 15,000 artworks, and includes the Creative Learning Centre, where visitors can explore, experiment, create and share. When in Wellington, make sure you visit City Gallery Wellington, renowned for its world-class programme of national and international exhibitions. In the South Island, a highlight is the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, first established in 1884 and still one of New Zealand’s most significant art museums. You’ll find impressive art exhibitions in smaller centres too. The Aigantighe Art Gallery (pronounced ‘Egg & Tie’) in Timaru holds the South Island’s third-largest public art museum collection, while the Forrester Gallery in Oamaru is housed in a spectacular neo-classical building dating back to 1884. In New Plymouth, visit the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and in Whanganui, the Sarjeant Gallery is a must-see. Other galleries to visit are Wellington's The Dowse Art Museum and The Suter Art Gallery in Nelson.