Art 'vandalised' by adverts

JESSICA TASMAN-JONES
Last updated 05:00 02/09/2011

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An Auckland business association has been left with egg on its face after it allowed several pieces of a public sculpture to be significantly tampered with for a lighting company's marketing campaign - a move its owners say "beggars belief".

Nine pieces of the "Globgobs" installation which runs along Newmarket's Teed and Osbourne Streets have been affected.

The egg-shaped structures by Auckland artist Seung Yul Oh were installed along the trendy precinct in June last year.

Over the past two days, however, specialist tradespersons have affixed screw tops to transform the egg-shaped sculptures into lightbulbs.

The move was part of a campaign for the local branch of Lighting Plus.

The Newmarket Arts Trust, which owns the $70,000 installation, says the "flippant" tampering with the artwork amounts to defacement.

Neither the Arts Trust, which owns the fibreglass sculptures, or the artist were notified about the proposed alterations.

Emma Fox from Newmarket Arts Trust says the damage from the advertising "beggars belief".

"This is not just something you can fix in situ - they will have to be recoated. And I don't know what damage the screw tops have done but it doesn't look good," she says.

"No artist wants their artwork to be used in that flippant way. It's defacement."

She says as part of the creative industry the advertising professional should have had more respect for the artist's intellectual property.

"They know you can't ride roughshod over other people's creative ideas. So it's like they willingly and knowingly just decided they could do what they like."

The Newmarket Business Association says the professional heading the campaign mistakenly believed he had been given the go ahead to make the alterations.

But chief executive Ashley Church says official consent had not been given for the project to proceed.

He says the misunderstanding occurred when he went away on leave and did not properly brief his staff about the proposal.

Church says the "desecration" to the artworks had drawn complaints from its members and the public and he "unreservedly" apologised to Seung Yul Oh, the Arts Trust, the Newmarket Business Association's board and its members.

Oh left for an artists residency in New York less than two weeks ago but his representative, John McCormack of Starkwhite Gallery, has informed him by email of what has happened.

McCormack describes the miscommunication between the various parties involved as a "comedy of errors" and is comfortable the alterations to the artwork were not done "maliciously".

"It's important for people to understand there are intellectual property rights vested in art works in the public domain. They're there for the public to interact with and enjoy, not to be used as a mini playground for their own good ideas as has happened here."

He says the artworks will be assessed by a conservator but he believes they will be able to be restored.

He did not know how long that process could take.

According to Lighting Plus the advertising professional came to them with the idea for the campaign and general manager David Barlow says a lot of planning went into the campaign.

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"It was really a positive thing, to bring a bit of joy to the area and add a bit of life. The fact we've offended people with it is just really regrettable."

He says the agency had been dealing with the Newmarket Business Association and informed Lighting Plus consent had been granted to alter the sculptures.

"We would never have undertaken this work if we'd known it had been without the proper people's permission. To be thought of as vandals in the area, it's unthinkable," Barlow says.

Lighting Plus will be working with all concerned parties to see the appendages are safely removed.

Work is expected to begin on the sculptures' restoration this morning.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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