Bold bronze bull for Christchurch

Michael Parekowhai's On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.
Michael Parekowhai's On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.

A 1.7-tonne bronze bull atop a grand piano, which became a symbol of hope in an earthquake-ravaged city, will make Christchurch its new home.

Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper last night launched a public fundraising campaign to buy the sculpture.

The work, Michael Parekowhai's On First Looking into Chapman's Homer, was  ommissioned for the 2011 Venice Biennale, and was a big hit when it was displayed on an empty site in central Christchurch last year.

''It's definitely a ballsy move,'' Harper said. ''We are standing up and doing something for the city.''

Harper said the artwork, which was displayed on Madras St, stopped traffic and became a firm public favourite.

About 50,000 people visited the sculpture during its 30-day residency last July.

''It entered the city's imagination in a special way; it will come to symbolise this time. It was amazing. I can't believe how many taxi driversstill talk to me about it.

''Everyone seemed to know about it. It somehow symbolised our extraordinary situation in an extraordinary way,'' she said.

Harper launched the fundraising campaign at a gala dinner in Christchurch last night.

The Christchurch Art Gallery Trust has committed some money, as has the local council's public arts fund.

The public fundraising campaign aims to raise $200,000 towards the purchase.

At the event, Harper said they were ''well over halfway'' to raising the money needed to buy the sculpture. But she would not disclose the price.

''I want to propose that, as of tonight, we - and I mean 'we' collectively - count ourselves as committed to buying it for Christchurch. Don't even ask the price - it'll be a sale by private treaty.

The trust is fronting the fundraising and what they know about is value. It's only for me to assure you it's a good deal.

''We're keen to make this a community project, so that Christchurch really feels it owns the sculpture and we'll launch a public fund-raising campaign just beforeand run it throughout the forthcoming Christchurch Arts Festival.''

Harper hopes the bull will become part of the redeveloped concourse in front of the Christchurch Art Gallery, which has to be re-levelled as part of extensive earthquake repairs and upgrades. The gallery repair work is expected to be completed by the middle of 2015.

The bull's public display last year prompted letters to The Press calling for it to be purchased for the city.

''We are badly in need of something inspiring and uplifting,'' wrote Robyn Kilty.

''We desperately need the brilliance and inspiration of an artist like Michael Parekowhai to keep jollying us along.''

The Press