• Len Lye

Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland will present the most comprehensive survey of Aotearoa New Zealand-born artist Len Lye’s work ever staged in Europe. The major exhibition Len Lye – Motion Composer opens 23 October 2019 to 26 January 2020 and brings together more than 150 artworks.

Acclaimed for his pioneering experimental films, Lye’s oeuvre spanned a wide range of media – painting, photography, poetry and kinetic sculpture.

Len Lye (1901-1980) is known as New Zealand’s maverick modernist. Leaving Aotearoa New Zealand as a young artist, Lye travelled to London following formative experiences in Australia and Samoa. In London, Lye made his mark in avant-garde circles, joining the Seven and Five Society, publishing with Robert Graves and Laura Riding and exhibiting in British Surrealist exhibitions through the 1930s.

Simultaneously, Lye established a leading role in cinema, pioneering the direct-method of animation through an acclaimed body of advertising films for the British General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit and other governmental and corporate commissions. Painting directly onto film without the use of a camera Lye produced one of the most vibrant, exciting and enduring bodies of cinema. Courted by Walt Disney, Lye resisted the move to Hollywood but relocated to the United States during World War II, making a further mark as a leading figure of a flourishing kinetic art movement in the 1960s.

Len Lye – Motion Composer will extensively survey Lye’s filmmaking alongside the largest showing of the artist’s drawings and paintings outside Aotearoa New Zealand. Rarely seen works include several of Lye’s sketchbooks produced in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and Samoa in the 1920s – richly illustrated insights into the mind of the young artist. A large selection of photographic works includes several exhibited in the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition and a rarely exhibited body of photogram portraits produced in New York in 1947.

The exhibition will feature more than a dozen of Lye’s tangible motion sculptures, the largest international exhibition of Lye’s kinetic sculpture ever mounted. Drawn from the Len Lye Foundation Collection at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, alongside several collections in the United States, many of these restored or reconstructed works have not been seen since the 1960s.

The exhibition is organised by Museum Tinguely with support from the Len Lye Foundation, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-6pm


  • Museum Tinguely
  • Paul Sacher-Anlage 2, 4002 Basel, Switzerland