Sculpture For Hauraki Corner Gets Go-Ahead. Again.

Posted by on Apr 27, 2011 | 3 Comments

The "Wings" Sculpture

The "Wings" Sculpture

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.


  1. Dave Balcom says:

    How upsetting. People on the shore, and in most of Auckland for that matter, are so conservative. Why does most public sculpture here have to be representational and easy to understand? NZ has so many talented artists producing amazing, challenging artworks that don’t necessarily look like birds.
    Interesting and numerous public artworks are a defining feature of a great city and can attract overseas visitors as well as make the city a stimulating and beautiful place to live. Its a shame to see such short sightedness in view of the long term design of our city to be enjoyed by future generations of people who will perhaps more open minded.

  2. where was the call for submissions ??
    suddenly this sculpture is announced as being given the go ahead..maybe a lack of competition leaves us having to pass this lame excuse for art on our journeys in and out if Devo..if Rob Garrett was brought in for an artistic opinion why wasn’t he listened to?

    The adverb “suddenly” I’m afraid couldn’t apply less to this particular process Lucy, which has been ongoing since the days of the previous council. The Takapuna Community Board went through quite a lengthy process (it fell under their remit, which is why we haven’t heard much about it down here in Devo), which was about to be re-litigated at the last DTB meeting. One assumes that Rob’s predecessor at the NSCC would have provided input into the process. – Ed

  3. Moralpanic says:

    A marvelous article. Thank you, Speculator.

    So they want to spend $100,000 of our money on a sculpture for Hauraki Corner? If they wanted minimal maintenance, and something sizable that would look good in 15 years, then maybe the money might have been better spent on creating an urban pocket of native forest. This would at least be recognizable to passing cars, and perhaps mitigate some of the pollution spewing from their tailpipes. Imagine how a stand of kauri or beech would look in 150 years. Unfortunately, not many politicians can tolerate that kind of timeframe for their ribbon cutting and unveiling of corporate “art”.

    Not quite my good MoralPanic: The original budget was for a sculpture of around $20-25k; this is what is being spent. The $100k was proposed by the council arts dude to fund a new sculpture. However, the Board voted this down. – Ed

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