The Speculator was pleased to witness the first decent debate between members of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board (DTLB) at the recent meeting at the RSA in Victoria Rd.
Most of the debates thus far have been between Chris Darby and Mike Cohen on the somewhat tedious technical details of how to run meetings, or between Jan O’Connor and everyone else. They have tended not to have required the formulation and exposition of a well-informed argument.
Last week’s meeting was exceptional as it featured a robust but intelligent debate between Chair Chris Darby and everyone else. After the debate, Darby lost the vote, declared the motion carried and moved on. A whiff of democracy was in the air.
It was just a shame the subject was the relatively minor issue of the placement of a sculpture at Hauraki corner.
The work, created by sculptor James Wright is to be made of stainless steel and has a total budget of $25,000. Wright, who has now been commissioned to make the sculpture has other civic works, including a 6 metre work at the Pukekohe town hall for Auckland Council , and his work ‘Nikau Palms’ can be viewed at the entrance Auckland Botanical Gardens .
Said Mike Sheehy, ex-member of the Takapuna Community Board who had been involved in the commissioning of the sculpture; “We were very aware of the sites characteristics , that 30,000 cars go past every day, we wanted a sculpture that required minimal maintenance (hence Stainless Steel ). The sculpture needed to be sizable , to view from a passing car. And the sculpture needed to be recognisable, some of the art submitted you needed to read about and have an imagination to attempt to understand the concept – no good if you are one of the 30,000 . We also wanted the public to view the Sculpture in 15 years time and still think it looked great.”
The sculpture was given the green light early last year by the Takapuna Community Board and was meant to be ready to be installed in May, but the transition to the new council had led to – for reasons that remain unclear – the issue being re-litigated; this time with the proposal that a budget of $100,000 be allocated for a more “significant” work.
However, despite Darby’s claims that Wright’s work was an example of “plonk art” and the council’s art advisor Rob Garrett raising questions around its “artistic merit” the rest of the Board believed the issue had been thoroughly examined by the previous Takapuna Board and authorised its implementation. Mike Sheehy was delighted; “Let’s hope there are no more delays” he said.
The Speculator was also interested to catch a glimpse of the caliginous world of public sector arts administration. The Speculator’s poppycock detector was triggered on several occasions during Mr Garrett’s representations to the Board. Anyone who positions themselves as an arbiter of artistic authenticity is a deluded dilettante in The Speculator’s book; however, he seemed like a nice enough chap, and appeared to be simply inputting his professional view into the debate. One to watch for, as arts administration takes on a city-wide responsibility.