Hamilton City's rejection of free sculpture 'stupefying'
'It's a disgrace, it is embarrassing'DANIEL ADAMS
Hamilton civic leaders have been branded "philistines" for rejecting a striking, three-storey sculpture offered to the city by a public arts trust at no cost.
In a confidential decision Hamilton politicians spurned the donation of the $700,000 sculpture, intended to mark the city's 150th anniversary next year.
The sculpture is an initiative of the Mesh trust, which would raise the funds.
Mesh chairwoman Nancy Caiger was reluctant to talk about the operation committee's reaction before Hamilton City Council met in two weeks to consider the recommendation.
However, she was confident of persuading the council to overturn the committee decision, and back the sculpture proposal from a leading artist.
The soaring work is by Michael Parekowhai, who in 2011 was New Zealand's representative at the 54th Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious events on the world arts calendar. He is overseas and could not be reached for comment.
"This is an artist of international repute," said Mrs Caiger.
"We are certainly very proud to be able to bring a work of this nature to the city."
Mesh is a group that encourages corporate sponsorship and art philanthropy within the city, and has been through the council's public art approval process twice.
The Waikato Times understands the committee voted 5-6 against approving the proposal, with some councillors balking at the artwork itself, and others at its scale. The council will consider the committee's recommendation on September 26.
One Times source understood councillors Pippa Mahood, Peter Bos, Gordon Chesterman, Daphne Bell and Dave Macpherson had had voted to approve the concept presented by Mesh.
Councillors John Gower and Maria Westphal were not present, indicating that those who voted against approving the sculpture were Julie Hardaker, Angela O'Leary, Martin Gallagher, Ewan Wilson, Margaret Forsyth and Roger Hennebry.
The concept, with an 8-metre sculpture standing in a shallow pool, references Waikato River creation myths, and the cuisenaire rods used to teach Te Reo.
Mrs Caiger ruled out asking the artist to make changes: "If we ask the artist to produce something else we want, we may as well not commission the work."
Prominent arts advocate Peter Dorneuf said the decision was "stupefying".
He said the "striking" work by Parekowhai, who he described as the country's "pre-eminent sculptor", was the Mesh trust's best offering yet.
He said the "beautiful" work was easily the most striking public art proposal he had seen for the city and it beggared belief that councillors had rejected it.
"And Hamilton has turned down the work of this man? It's a disgrace, it is embarrassing, and those who made this decision should be hanging their heads in shame. We've been trying for years to raise our city's heads above the mud, and these dunderheads keep dragging us back down," said Mr Dorneuf.
Mesh last year unveiled its intention to commission and donate 10 nationally significant artworks to Hamilton over the next five years and in the process turn it into a public arts destination rivalling Wellington or Melbourne.
Last November it unveiled Te Pumanawa O Te Whenua/Beat Connection, by multimedia artist Seung Yul Oh, outside the Claudelands Events Centre.
In April it revealed Lonnie Hutchinson's Te Waharoa ki te Ao Marama - The Entranceway to the World of Enlightenment at Hamilton Lake.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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