New Zealand Now: Contemporary Art and Design

From Auckland’s magnificent He Taonga Māori, to Shigeru Ban’s ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ in Christchurch, discover how New Zealand’s vibrant cultural life is just as captivating as its stunning landscapes.

Visit Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch in the company of contemporary art authority Julie Ewington to discover the country’s multi-cultural, enterprising and feisty art, craft and design scenes.

The country presents an abundance of creative talent, from ground-breaking work by contemporary Māori and Pacific Islander artists to distinguished architecture and flourishing design, combined with wonderful contemporary jewellery and striking fashion. Visit excellent museums, galleries, and craft and design specialists, paired with the best of New Zealand’s wines and exceptional fresh produce to uncover how New Zealand rocks the contemporary!


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

Arrive in Auckland on suggested flights and make your own way to the hotel. Attend a welcome briefing and talk, before joining Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.


Begin the morning with a guided visit of the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, and see the extensive collections of Māori and Pacific material culture, and the country’s natural and military history. Enjoy time at leisure for lunch and to explore the Museum or the surrounding Botanic Gardens.

Then transfer to McCahon House, where artist Colin McCahon lived with his family throughout the 1950s and produced some of his most famous work. See the original house and the modern Parehuia Artists’ Residency, where three artists are invited to live and work each year. Visit a traditional Māori marae (meeting place), before continuing to the hotel. Enjoy dinner at a nearby restaurant.


This morning visit Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki, whose collection includes major holdings of New Zealand historic, modern and contemporary art. Designed to give a visual overview of the history of New Zealand, the story begins with first contact between the Māori and European explorers in the 1600s and continues to the present day. Enjoy a private guided tour by one of the gallery’s curators before time at leisure to explore the collections.

After lunch, walk to Fingers Contemporary Jewellery, an independent gallery dedicated to showcasing the unique indigenous style of contemporary New Zealand jewellery, before visiting another private contemporary art gallery nearby. Then, embark on a coach tour of Auckland, including a wander along the waterfront and Queen’s Wharf, where influential New Zealand artist Michael Parekōwhai’s The Lighthouse / Tū Whenua-a-Kura stands overlooking the Waitematā Harbour. Dinner this evening is at one of Auckland’s fine dining restaurants.


Begin the morning with a talk by Julie before transferring to Gibbs Farm, a privately-owned, open-air sculpture park owned by businessman Alan Gibbs. The park features large-scale artworks by major New Zealand and international contemporary artists, many of which have been commissioned to interact with the surrounding landscape. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the park amongst the beautiful and bizarre sculpture which dot the picturesque landscape.

After lunch continue to the Starkwhite Gallery, a private commercial gallery which presents a programme of artists’ projects, including solo shows by represented and invited artists, and independently curated exhibitions. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon, and enjoy the evening at leisure.


Check out of the hotel and transfer to Objectspace Art Gallery, a public gallery founded by a group of local makers with a particular focus on best practice and innovation in the fields of applied art and design. After a guided tour, walk to Two Rooms, a contemporary art gallery housed in a converted warehouse. A particular focus of Two Rooms is its residency program, which supports emerging local artists and seeks to facilitate collaboration between New Zealand and international artists.

Continue to Auckland Airport for a lunchtime flight to New Plymouth (flight included in tour price). Upon arrival in New Plymouth, transfer to the hotel via Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, a tied arch bridge reminiscent of a cresting wave or a whale skeleton. Stretching across the Waiwhakaiho River, its sculptural form represents the sacred relationship between the land, sea and wind with the local Māori tribe. Dinner this evening is at the restaurant linked to the gallery visited on the next day of the tour.


Begin the morning at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre, a contemporary art gallery featuring a significant collection of kinetic sculptures by the 20th century New Zealand-born artist, Len Lye. Enjoy a guided tour of the gallery, including its permanent collection of local and international contemporary art, before transferring to Te Kainga Marire Garden. Māori for ‘peaceful encampment’, Te Kainga Marire is one of only a few gardens in New Zealand to be given ‘international significance’ status by the Royal New Zealand Gardens Trust. Enjoy lunch in the grounds of this verdant garden full of native plants that reflect a microcosm of the New Zealand landscape.

Then travel to the coast to view Len Lye’s iconic Wind Wand sculpture, a 45m-tall pillar of red fibreglass surmounted by a glowing red sphere, which bends in the wind. Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure to relax or explore the New Plymouth coastal walk at your own pace.


Today travel along the rugged west coast of the North Island from New Plymouth to Wellington, between the idyllic waters of the Cook Straight and the snow-capped volcanic peaks which line the eastern horizon.

Stop briefly in Whanganui and enjoy time for lunch in town. This evening arrive in Wellington, New Zealand’s vibrant capital, which is famous for its thriving cultural scene and enjoy dinner at the hotel.


Begin the morning with a talk by Julie before walking to the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, for a private guided tour with one of the curators focussing on Māori weaving. Continue to the City Gallery Wellington for a tour of the exhibitions and lunch in the Gallery’s café.

After lunch, walk to the Avid Gallery to see an exhibit of contemporary art and jewellery. Then enjoy an exclusive private visit to the home of one of New Zealand’s most important modern art collectors. Dinner this evening is at one of Wellington’s acclaimed restaurants.


Begin the morning with a guided tour of Dowse Art Museum, which houses an extensive collection of multidisciplinary works by significant New Zealand artists. Then visit some of Wellington’s most impressive architectural designs on a coach sightseeing tour, including Futuna Chapel and Athfield House.

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to relax or explore the city at your own pace. This evening enjoy a private after-hours viewing of the McLeavey Gallery followed by a drinks reception.


This morning visit a private studio of one of New Zealand’s celebrated contemporary jewellers, Lisa Walker and Karl Fritsch, in the Wellington suburb of Island Bay.

In the afternoon fly from Wellington to Dunedin, a city built upon the riches of New Zealand’s gold rush, with a legacy of grand Edwardian and Victorian architecture.


Today begin with a talk by Julie, as an introduction to the art of the South Island, before visiting the Dunedin Public Gallery. Founded in 1884, the gallery was the first public art gallery in New Zealand and houses a strong collection of historic and contemporary works, including numerous works by Frances Mary Hodgkins. Hodgkins was a painter of landscapes and still life and is now considered one of New Zealand’s most significant and influential painters.

Walk from the gallery to explore the Edwardian and Victorian period architecture, interlaced with Italianate, Gothic, Georgian and Palladian forms of designs. Gothic church spires, ornate mansions, grand government buildings and picturesque gardens weave through the streets of the inner city.

Explore antique bookshops before visiting the Otago Museum for a guided visit of the collection that captures natural, cultural and scientific stories of Otago, New Zealand and the world.

Enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.


Check of out the hotel and drive along the Otago coast to the uniquely quirky town of Oamaru. Walk the Victorian streetscapes or step into the peculiar world of Steampunk, a movement created in the 1980s that uses arts and fashion to imagine inventions people of Victorian time might have created for the modern world.

Enjoy lunch en route to Christchurch and sample wines from South Island before arriving in Christchurch, a city that has embraced urban regeneration with cutting-edge architecture sitting alongside some of the oldest heritage buildings in New Zealand.


Today enjoy an early-access visit to The National gallery. The National showcases the work of a select group of New Zealand contemporary jewellers alongside sculptural ceramics, glass and object-based works.

In the afternoon visit the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. The gallery not only acts as a catalyst to drive ambitious creativity in Christchurch but extends an influence beyond the art world. When Christchurch was hit by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 the Emergency Operating Centre and hub for the earthquake recovery operated from the gallery.

Walk from the gallery in the company of a Christchurch specialist for an interesting local creatives’ perspective of how Christchurch has become a flourishing city of the arts.

Enjoy a special farewell dinner at one of Christchurch’s city restaurants.


This morning check out of the hotel and visit the most recognised building in Christchurch, the Transitional Cathedral, or more commonly known as the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, the church was the first public building commissioned and stands as a symbol of progress and resilience in the aftermath of the quakes.

Return to the hotel where tour arrangements conclude at 11:30. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 8,500

Single supplement*

AUD 1,800

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.

Final payment due

26 August 2020

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness levels definitions.

Suggested airline

Qantas/Air New Zealand
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


Australian passport holders do not require a visa for New Zealand.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in centrally-located 4- and 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Flights in Economy Class: Auckland to New Plymouth and Wellington to Dunedin
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner); wine with dinners
  • Talks and discussions with your tour leader, Julie Ewington
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, drinks, room service etc.
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Transfers on arrival and departure
  • Airport porterage


Your hotels
Auckland – Hotel Grand Windsor Auckland – MGallery *****
New Plymouth – Novotel New Plymouth ****+
Wellington – QT Wellington ****
Dunedin –Scenic Hotel Dunedin City Centre****
Christchurch – The George Christchurch *****

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.