In 1963 Monica R. Brewster (née Govett) set up a trust fund for the establishment of a gallery in New Plymouth. The gallery was to be designed by architect Terry Boon and inhabit the site of the old Regent Theatre on New Plymouth’s Queen Street.
John Manyard, then 24, was appointed as the Govett-Brewster’s first director with the vision of a gallery that was “not to follow but to lead”.1 The gallery opened in February 1970 with Real Time, an installation by Elam graduate Leon Narby. Local reviewer Noeline Blackman remarked “…for the general public it was literally a culture shock. A quiet provincial centre with down to earth kiwi values was dragged screaming into the contemporary world.”2
Over the next five decades the Govett-Brewster has continued to present contemporary, New Zealand and international art with this ambitious curatorial vision in mind, inviting critical as well as controversial engagement. The exhibition Art in the Mail (1977) prompted the headline “New Plymouth – prepare to be outraged yet again”.3 Such media responses have peppered the press throughout the gallery’s history as exhibitions have continued to challenge and engage audiences.
Now showing: A history of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery has recently been published celebrating over 40 years of the Govett-Brewster. The publication includes texts from the gallery director Simon Rees, Jim and Mary Barr, Wystan Curnow and Jonathan Bywater and highlights significant moments in the gallery’s history including noteworthy exhibitions by Elam graduates and staff.
A selection of catalogues and ephemera from throughout the gallery’s history are currently on display at the Fine Arts Library to mark the publication of the book.
S.Foote, Fine Arts Library
1 Gribben, Trish. “Art gallery plans soon”. Taranaki Herald, 20 June 1967.
2 Blackman, Noeline as quoted in Mare, Barbara. Monica R. Brewster. New Plymouth: Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, 1993. p.17
3 Woodd, Richard. “NP – prepare to be outraged yet again”. Daily News, 29 November 1976.