Attack on zombie bunnies angers artist

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 05:00 10/04/2014
These artworks created by Auckland artist Antoinette Ratcliffe
UNFAIR GAME: These artworks created by Auckland artist Antoinette Ratcliffe, installed in the Hamilton Gardens for the arts festival in February, ended up being vandalised and stolen.

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The vampire apples were beaten while the zombie bunnies were drowned in the paddling pool.

And a mystery remains over who stole the carnivorous ladybirds.

Now artist Antoinette Ratcliffe wants answers over what happened to her cherished artworks in the Hamilton Gardens - and how the damage and thefts were allowed to happen.

Ratcliffe's latex and plaster artworks were being displayed during the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival in February when much of the installation was vandalised and stolen.

However, the gardens' managers say they were not responsible for ensuring the artworks' security - and were taken by surprise when they arrived.

An angry Ratcliffe told the Waikato Times she only discovered how her art had been treated when she arrived to uninstall them. "No staff had contacted me about the damage and theft. When I was asked to install a piece in the exhibitions I was told that they would have security on, and that the staff would also be looking after the work.

"I have been trying to reach an agreement with the Hamilton Gardens, but they have not been at all forthcoming . . . I was told more than 100,000 people visited the gardens during the festival, and, as you can imagine, this horrified me to think so many people saw my work in such a state: Broken, paint cracked, at the bottom of a pool in the American Modernist Garden.

"And then the visitors thought it was OK to take what they could get their hands on. I have collectors who have previously bought sets of these works, and this event has made my artwork look like some kind of joke, not to mention how I am being treated by the Hamilton Gardens over this."

Ratcliffe said 17 ladybirds were stolen and two bunnies and five apples were chipped and cracked beyond repair with water damage - estimated at $1350.

"I have had many pieces installed in gardens and sculpture parks around New Zealand, and this is by far the worst intentional damage to my work I have ever seen.

"I reported the vandalism and theft to the police who investigated it, and the reply was: ‘After looking at all the available evidence, we have not been able to find out who is responsible'. This makes sense because the security company and staff apparently had no idea when the damage and theft happened, so they were not looking after the work after all. I find the Hamilton Gardens responsible for the damage as they were trusted with the installation on their property.

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"I think it's very important that the ratepayers know how their money is being wasted on pretend security, and other artists need to be aware of the venue as a no-go."

Hamilton Gardens director Peter Sergel said until recently there had been no contact between Ratcliffe and his staff.

"The sudden appearance of her work in the American Modernist Garden came as a surprise to our staff, who informed the festival director of their concerns that it could be damaged. Hamilton Gardens did not have any responsibility for the artwork, which included pieces of fresh fruit and items resembling toys.

"Given the artworks were displayed under the auspices of the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, we felt it was for them to deal with, and the artist's complaints have been forwarded to festival organisers.

"The artist is correct in that Hamilton Gardens staff don't have any insight into when the damage occurred, but we reject the suggestion we have ‘pretend' security.

"For the festival, extra security was arranged by both Hamilton Gardens management and festival organisers."

Festival director Hamish Nathan said the matter would be discussed at a Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival Foundation meeting today, and he did not want to comment until after that happened.

mike.mather@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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