Public opinion divided over a giant new public artwork in Wellington

The Philanthropist's Stone, now adorning the lower end of Cuba St.
Ross Giblin

The Philanthropist's Stone, now adorning the lower end of Cuba St.

A cupcake with oozing icing, a Lord of the Rings tribute, or piece of gold poo with arrows sticking out: they are all descriptions of Wellington's newest public artwork.

The Philanthropist's Stone, a sculpture by Dunedin-based artist Scott Eady completed in Cuba St on Friday, features a tall Corinthian column, which will be painted blue this week, a gold-plated bronze nugget, and candles with hand-blown glass flames that will light up at night.

Despite its name, it has nothing to with Harry Potter. Instead it commemorates Wellington businessman Thomas George Macarthy, who established a trust on his death, which has granted $61.4 million to charities in the region over the past 100 years.

Duane Henderson and Bobbi Walker were not impressed: "The column is so nice, and then they have stuck a giant gold poo ...
AMY JACKMAN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Duane Henderson and Bobbi Walker were not impressed: "The column is so nice, and then they have stuck a giant gold poo on the top with some arrows sticking out of it," Henderson said.

The $168,000 sculpture is a joint project between the TG Macarthy Trust and the Wellington Sculpture Trust, whose chairwoman, Sue Elliott, said:

http://static.stuff.co.nz/1439095365/670/12386670.jpg

"The candles celebrate the 100th anniversary of the [TG McCarthy] trust. The nugget itself is a reference to Macarthy, a Londoner, who in the 1850s headed to the Victorian goldfields and then was enticed to New Zealand to join the gold rush to Central Otago."

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The Wellington public didn't quite see it in those terms on Sunday.

Ria Goble said she thought it was to do with Lord of the Rings and didn't like it.

Duane Henderson and Bobbi Walker were less than complimentary, and said something better could have been thought of.

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"The column is so nice, and then they have stuck a giant gold poo on the top with some arrows sticking out of it," Henderson said.

"I understand why you'd have the gold and the candles, but they could have come up with something better."

However, Ann Gale liked it, and said it added a fun element to the lower end of Cuba St, which had been revived in the past couple of months. 

"I thought it was a bit like a cupcake with oozing icing, but I like it and it's cool.

"I'm a huge fan of public art: the more the better, and having something like that in this end of Cuba St is even better."

Elliott said reactions to new works were always interesting. "People's appreciation of them often changes over time, and that is what is good about public art – people start taking ownership."

The idea for the four-metre-high work was first explored in 2013, but the height of the statue delayed its installation in Lower Cuba St, outside Felix Cafe, she said. 

"The problem with putting something that high in the CBD is there are huge amounts of utilities underground. We had to excavate the ground and use cameras to make sure we could have it there. It is always a slow process, installing a sculpture. Nga Kina took six years from concept to installation. It never takes less than two."

It is the 28th permanent statue erected by the sculpture trust.

 - Stuff

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