'Painted pole' angers community

00:28, Oct 29 2012
tdn pole stand
An artists impression of how Atarangi will look when installed

The Art in Public Places Trust appears to have riled the community with its latest purchase.

On Thursday it was announced that the trust had bought a $70,000 artwork by controversial Auckland artist Michael Parekowhai that will be the centrepiece of the new landing outside New Plymouth's library.

But the artwork, titled Atarangi, has enraged online readers who say it is a waste of money.

Of the 727 responses in an online poll, 82 per cent said the artwork was a waste of money, with the other 18 per cent saying the artwork looked great.

Online commentators were also unimpressed with the purchase, with many saying it looked like a painted post.

"70k for a painted post and 80k for a signpost is ridiculous! What part of that don't you understand?," one comment said.


"Can someone tell me what art is ? If a pole with coloured paint on it is art I have a colourful fence post you can have at the discount price of $50,000," another read.

Atarangi symbolises the Te Ataarangi system of Maori language teaching devised by Katerina te Heikoko Mataira and Ngoingoi Pewhairangi using Cuisenaire rods developed by Belgian teacher Georges Cuisenaire for teaching mathematics.

While most of the online attack was directed at the cost of the latest artwork, trust chairman Terry Parkes said it was a "good price" and the Puke Ariki site was "fitting".

The trust said it was also hoping to recoup some of the cost by another auction, like it did with the Big Wave Territory piece.

Big Wave Territory, a billboard-sized montage of street signs pointing to New Plymouth landmarks, was also controversial when it was commissioned by the trust in 2011 at a cost of $80,000.

Located on the Coastal Walkway by Port Taranaki, Big Wave Territory was the work of another Auckland artist John Reynolds.

At the time councillor Shaun Biesiek criticised the trust for using Reynolds.

But Mr Parkes was quick to defend the work, saying it was important not to be typecast into using only local art.

"To give art credibility we have to use some well-known artists," he said at the time.

"Some people aren't going to see this as art, they're going to see it as a waste of money. But good art always has its detractors and you expect that. Anything that gets people engaged with art is great," he said.

The large "street sign" was also the inspiration for Murray Chong's ski fence, which was completed in August.

Mr Chong was disgusted at the cost and use of outside artists and built the fence with 135 snow skis in protest.

As well as Atarangi and Big Wave Territory the trust contributed $60,000 to other project in the year ending March 31 2012.

The trust contributed $45,000 to the bronze statue of Frederic Alonzo Carrington and $15,000 for the illumination of the New Plymouth clock tower during the Taranaki International Arts Festival.

Taranaki Daily News