'Mesmerising' $1.5m Lighthouse sculpture gets walkaround
Hundreds have attended the official unveiling of a controversial Auckland waterfront sculpture
Prominent New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai's $1.5 million 'Lighthouse' art installation takes pride-of-place on Queens Wharf.
Externally, the Lighthouse is a full-size replica of a two storey 1950's state house.
Viewers can't enter, but dozens queued to peer inside windows viewing the artistically rendered interior lit with glass chandeliers evoking the constellation Matariki.
On unveiling night, inside the Lighthouse, sitting next to a giant silver Captain Cook statue, a who's who of contemporary Kiwi pop stars strummed out Kiwi classics like Ten Guitars.
Auckland Council spokeswoman Jo Davidson said musicians including Anika Moa, The Phoenix Foundation, Lawrence Arabia and Marlon Williams were "going to sit in there and jam likes it's a normal living room".
Creative New Zealand said the work will be one of Auckland's most "adventurous" public artworks.
The scaled-down state house references the country's architectural and social history, with the stars those which guided early Maori and European navigators. "It will become a significant asset to the waterfront and the city."
Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson said it is a "time-honoured tradition for people and organisations to make a financial contribution to artwork and amenities that benefit their community".
"The Barfoot and Thompson families are honoured to be able to continue that tradition."
On Saturday, Waitakere Ranges Local Board member Sandra Coney lashed out on Facebook, calling the sculpture's placement a "very Auckland f...-up".
"Having a bloody great mock state house plonked on [Queens Wharf] not only takes up the public's space, but blocks views to the harbour.
"Auckland Council seems intent on littering the space with structures, cars, buses, clouds, anything but people.
"It was meant to be just the two old wharf sheds, and be a place for people to connect back with the harbour by being able to SEE IT and GET NEAR TO IT, instead of false glitz.
"A very Auckland f...-up.
Open home praised
Viewers spoken to were positive about the Lighthouse.
Grey Lynn resident Carol Gunn said public artworks like the Lighthouse helped Auckland become "cosmopolitan".
"Doesn't the city need art? Does everything need to be pragmatic and soulless?"
David Kirkpatrick called the Lighthouse "a fantastic piece of art".
"I think it's beautiful," the Mt Eden resident said.
"It's mesmerising, once you see what's inside, it's stunning. The neon, it's kind of got a child-like feel about it," another Mt Eden resident, Sara Noble said.
The sculpture has also received some criticism for poor taste.
Its installation comes at a time when high Auckland property prices are making many people homeless or forcing them out of the city, critics said.
Housing Action members standing metres from the Lighthouse waved placards and called for better public housing.
Spokesman Dr Rawiri Jansen said the group wasn't protesting the Parekowhai's sculpture but "demonstrating" by the artwork to generate debate about the state of Auckland public housing.
"We want the housing crisis addressed, we want affordable housing in Auckland.
State housing is growing scarcer and current stock is poorly built and unhealthy, Rawiri said.
"Michael Parekowhai is a genius, his artwork should generate a conversation, it's really important we talk about housing in Auckland.
Parekowhai who didn't attend the unveiling, has kept silent on the Lighthouse, preferring to "not to make comment" until the work is complete.