Len Lye's kinetic sculpture Sky Snakes is making its world premiere at NPDC's Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre this Saturday.

The seven swirling Sky Snakes are each made from 4.5m of ball chain – similar to the chain traditionally used for lamp or light switches – with a brass ball representing the head.

"They hang from the ceiling and spin to create dancing harmonic wave patterns of light and movement. This is the international debut of the seven Sky Snakes, and it's a great exhibition to help mark the Govett-Brewster's 50th anniversary celebration," said co-directors Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh in an emailed statement.

The construction of Sky Snakes has been funded by the Len Lye Foundation and donors through Team Zizz.


Sky Snakes opens on Saturday, February 29, the same day as the Govett-Brewster's 50th birthday street party, which runs from 3pm to 9pm in Queen Street.

The street party will feature live music, participatory workshops, food trucks, a 2m-tall cake made by artist Reuben Paterson, who created the Golden Bearing tree sculpture, and more.

"We'll be taking over the street, so come on down, grab a beer or wine or coffee and get your art hit all in one go. It's your gallery and it's your party," said the co-directors.

A single snake version of Sky Snakes was exhibited at two New York galleries in 1965 and last year at the Museum Tinguely, in Basel, Switzerland, as part of an exhibition of Lye's work.

The seven Sky Snakes debuting at the Govett-Brewster have been made in accordance with Lye's instructions by the Len Lye Foundation.

Lye himself referred to a group of Sky Snakes as a "rumba". He envisioned one installation with 46 Sky Snakes around a "storm chamber", with a Storm King made from a hanging sheet of metal in the centre.

In this exhibition, each Sky Snake chain is hung from 9m above the floor.

An electric motor drives each Sky Snake and creates wave patterns at a speed up to 190 revolutions per minute. Sky Snakes is programmed to start slowly, form figures, maintain each form for a time, then coast to a stop over an eight-minute programme.


Set against a dark background, the moving Sky Snakes create an after-image of light playing on the metal.