Whilst it can’t compare with Europe or the US, New Zealand does have some beautiful public art galleries, though the buildings often overshadow their content…
Auckland Art Gallery
By some distance the best art gallery in the country, with a good collection that is rotated far more frequently than any of the galleries I used to visit in London. I’m probably there at least every other month and there’s always something new to see. The expansion a few years ago has created a spectacular entrance to the building, and there are some lovely views of Albert Park and the Auckland skyline from the top floor balcony. Look out for free talks, tours and films every week, normally themed around their major exhibitions.
Gus Fisher Gallery
A well known Auckland landmark which I suspect few people have ever actually been inside, or realise is an art gallery. It’s the somewhat crazy looking brick building on the left heading up Shortland Street. The large mast on top is a clue to its former life as TV studios. Now owned by the University of Auckland it displays works from their collection and exhibitions, which are free and make an excellent short stop off on your way back to the office from lunch or coffee.
Once the largest private house in Auckland, then a school, and now an excellent art gallery displaying works from the Wallace Collection (not related to the London Wallace collection, it is the largest private art collection in NZ) and a host of frequently changing exhibitions. Lovely spot with a decent cafe, which can be worked off with a stroll around Monte Cecilia park next door after you’ve finished with the artwork.
Newest addition to the Auckland art scene out in Titirangi and well worth the trip over, or stopping off on your way to / from the West Coast beaches. Stunning building, head up to the roof for views over the Waitakeres and Manukau Harbour. Some beautiful touches such as the cut into the wall by the staircase and little alcoves.
Christchurch Art Gallery
Sadly currently closed for repairs until December but is a landmark building by the River Avon, with a strong collection including Cass by Rita Angus, one of NZ most famous paintings.
Dunedin City Art Gallery
Another stunning building, particularly the entrance foyer off the Octagon, but somewhat variable and bare inside. Definitely worth paying a visit while you’re there but don’t expect it to take long.
Wellington City Art Gallery
From my experience the most experimental of the city art galleries, worth a visit if you’re in town.
There are plenty of smaller private art galleries that I’ve not mentioned. Best way to find and enjoy them is through joining the ArtExplore MeetUp group in Auckland. They host a variety of events including the popular weekend morning walks of galleries in different parts of town, guided by TJ McNamara, the art critic for the New Zealand Herald.