Wellington’s Public Art, Street Art, and More – An Art Lover’s Guide

by Karen Warren
Cuba Street artwork with a sign in Wellington, New Zealand

Whether your taste is for paintings, street art, or buildings, Wellington, New Zealand North Island is a perfect destination for art lovers. 

The streets are full of sculptures and installations. There is Art Deco architecture and graffiti as you’ve never seen it before. 

There are murals in public buildings and, of course, galleries and museums.

So, here is my list of the must-see public art, street art, and sculptures to check out when you’re in Wellington. 

Sculptures And Installations In Wellington

There are sculptures everywhere. Here are some of my favorites: 

Invisible City – This art has two giant stainless steel blocks with braille markings, a tactile statement of urban communication issues. 

Location: Corner of Lambton Quay and Grey Street

Woman of Words – This sculpture celebrates the local author, Katherine Mansfield. 

A tall sculpture of a woman with words inscribed over her clothes and hair

Woman of Words. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

Location: Midland Park, Lambton Quay

Kumutoto Stream – This is an audio installation where you walk into a tunnel to the sounds of a stream running through the bush.

Location: Pedestrian tunnel under “The Terrace” 

Many of the sculptures evoke Wellington’s Maori and colonial heritage, as well as the natural environment. 

Kaiwhakatere: The Navigator – Located near the Parliament Building has a Maori navigation theme – a manu (bird’s head), a waka (canoe), and a tuahu (a stone altar of the type that Maoris traditionally built when landing at a new place.) 

Kaiwhakatere: The Navigator is a collection of three sculptures from Maori navigation - a bird's head, a canoe, and a stone alter, located in Wellington, New Zealand

Kaiwhakatere: The Navigator. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

Location: Opposite of “The Terrace” 

Rugby World Cup Sculpture – Located on Jervois Quay, this art of rugby players reaching for the ball shows the city as “dynamically caught between the sea and the sky.”

Location: 88-94 Jervois Quay, Wellington Central

Exploring Cuba Street

Cuba Street is Wellington’s liveliest street with street performers, shops, and restaurants. It has its own artwork to admire. 

One of the first things you see is a massive multi-colored umbrella propped up on the pavement. 

Location: 51 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Then you come to the Bucket Fountain, a fast-moving mechanical sculpture with tumbling buckets of water.

Location: Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

But Cuba Street is a work of art in itself, a dazzling mixture of architectural styles with a preponderance of pastel-colored Art Deco buildings. 

In fact, you will find Art Deco architecture all around Wellington; around 200 new buildings were constructed in the 1920s and 30s. 

Close to Cuba Street is Luke’s Lane, where you can see a quite different sort of art. The sides of the buildings – including a multi-story car park – are covered with vibrant graffiti and street art.

Street art of blue bubbles and swirls along Luke's Lane in Wellington, New Zealand

A unique street art along Luke’s Lane. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

Galleries And Public Buildings

Not all of the art is outside. Wellington has a wealth of art in public buildings. 

Pick up the Secret Art Walk leaflet at the Wellington i-Site Tourist Information Office to discover murals like Music has Charms in the foyer of the City Chambers, or Colours of Fun in the New Public Trust Building. 

Location of I-Site: 111 Wakefield Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

TIP: If you’re ready to stop for a drink, try the Backbencher Pub opposite the Parliament Building. Its walls are decorated with caricatures of politicians past and present.

Location: Te Ngākau Civic Square, Wellington 6011

Of course, like any major city, Wellington has plenty of art galleries

I enjoyed the exhibitions at The City Gallery with its mixture of New Zealand and international art. 

Location: Te Ngākau Civic Square, Wellington 6011

Then I moved on to Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand.

One of the highlights here was Te Marae, a stunning contemporary interpretation of a Maori meeting place. It was a modern take on an old tradition by a city with a modern approach to art.

Te Marae artwork of silhouettes of people with a blue, orange, and yellow background

Te Marae inside the Te Papa Tongarewa. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

Location: 55 Cable Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Final Thoughts

Wellington’s public artwork, street art, and outdoor sculptures are worth exploring when you’re here. 

I recommend walking to these artworks as many are close together. Also, NZ Herald had an article stating that “Wellington is the most walkable city.”

Since the art scene changes often, you may find new and exciting public art on your next visit. I would love to hear about your latest finds in the comment section below. 

Check out WorldWideWriter for my travel adventures. 

A artwork of colorful hot air balloons in Wellington, New Zealand

A colorful and fun hot air balloon artwork. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

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