ECan rejects 'offensive' statue of Environment Minister Nick Smith squatting

Artist Sam Mahon with his sculpture of Environment Minister Nick Smith.

Artist Sam Mahon with his sculpture of Environment Minister Nick Smith.

A giant "offensive" sculpture of Environment Minister Nick Smith may arrive at Environment Canterbury's (ECan) door on Monday morning.

The sculpture's creator, artist and activist Sam Mahon, said he was determined to gift the sculpture, which depicts Smith squatting over a glass, to ECan chief executive Bill Bayfield.

Bayfield, in an email circulated to staff, was less enthusiastic.

Artist Sam Mahon with a completed Nick Smith hand sculpture in April.

Artist Sam Mahon with a completed Nick Smith hand sculpture in April.

"We always try to welcome visitors and engage in a constructive discussion with them. However, the statue that Sam has proposed to bring to us on Monday is inappropriate and offensive, and we cannot welcome it."

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Smith was yet to see the sculpture, but said it was "pretty crude art".

"In the business of politics a few people choose to have a go at you with that tone.

"I'm far more interested in doing the hard yards that will make a difference to water quality. I choose to put huge energy, effort and passion into improving New Zealand's freshwater management and I'm proud of my record."

The email said a staff member had spoken to Mahon to discourage him from delivering the sculpture to Peter Scoular Park, calling it "offensive and disrespectful to us, the Scoular family, and Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu".

"I'm sharing this with you all because unfortunately, despite our best efforts, it's possible that Sam and his statue may still arrive come Monday morning. If that's the case then we'll be doing all we can to have it removed immediately."

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Mahon said the sculpture was symbolic of the National Government's intention to deliver common property into private hands.

"It's the simplest image I can think of to describe the catastrophe of water and the government's abdication from its duty of care."

He said he did not believe it was offensive. 

He said ECan served him with an injunction on Friday evening preventing him from delivering the artwork, but he still wanted to go ahead.

"It's art. Art has to do its thing."

"If you ever take a walk in the Vatican City what you'll see is a multitude of penises and testicles and labia, which the Pope endorses.

"No kids ever get offended by walking around sculptures with their bits hanging out," he said.

"There is an old Maori tradition of baring your buttocks at the person you dishonour, and having Nick's buttocks pointed at ECan pretty well does the job."

He said the idea came after he created a bust of Smith out of cow dung and, he said, the minister told him there was nothing he could do to hurt his feelings.

Mahon took this as a challenge. He raised more than $10,000 through crowd funding to build the new sculpture.

The statue is 2.2 times life size, he said.

"The thing's a monster . . . The hands are bigger than my head."

He built a metal structure and enclosed it in polystyrene, which he carved into shape and coated in fibreglass.

"The only difference is the head and the hands. I used dry horse s*** mixed with epoxy resin, and it's a wonderful medium."

 - Stuff


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