Money given for free gallery

An artist impression of the proposed Len Lye Centre
An artist impression of the proposed Len Lye Centre

Len Lye Centre sponsors contributed millions of dollars towards its construction in the hope that admission would be free for all, committee member Lynn Bublitz says.

But no formal agreements that entry be free were made that he was aware of, he said.

Yesterday Mr Bublitz said when funding was being sought for the Len Lye Centre, sponsors put money towards the $10 million project in the hope that entry to both the Len Lye Centre and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery would be free.

"A number of the sponsors indicated that they would prefer it to be free entry, it wasn't a condition," Mr Bublitz said.

"That was the scenario that was proposed when we went out to get the sponsors."

On Tuesday, the New Plymouth District Council agreed to investigate charging entry fees into the Len Lye Centre and Govett-Brewster.

When the council was putting together the long-term plan last year, Govett-Brewster director Rhana Devenport presented evidence illustrating the benefits of free entry to art galleries, Mr Bublitz said.

Construction of the centre would not cost ratepayers a cent but operating costs would be ratepayer funded.

Private donations, government grants, corporate sponsorship, shop merchandise revenue, cafe revenue, venue hire fees and donations at the door would also contribute to operating costs.

Councillor Shaun Biesiek said he had always advocated for an entry fee into the Len Lye Centre and Govett-Brewster.

Many international art galleries charged for entry, he said.

"It makes no sense opening a facility like the Len Lye Centre and not trying to recover some of the costs that come with that."

But the Taranaki Daily News found that many of the world's top contemporary art galleries had free public entry, including London's The Tate, Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, Washington DC's National Gallery of Art and New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art.

However, the The Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York did charge entry fees.

Mr Biesiek said an admission fee to the Len Lye Centre and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery should apply to anyone without a Puke Ariki library card.

He suggested an admission fee of $5 to $10.

Mr Biesiek was not convinced an entry fee would impact on visitor numbers, therefore reducing the appeal to sponsors for exhibitions.

He said Ms Devenport was highly competent and would be able to secure popular exhibitions with or without a fee.

"I don't believe an entry fee would hinder or alter her or what she does."

Mr Biesiek said there were many ratepayers in New Plymouth who wanted an entry fee imposed.

Taranaki Daily News