Bottling out on public art
Where is the public art in Auckland city?
Wellington seems to fair burst at the seams with its council-sanctioned plastic buckets and metaphoric canoes. But in Auckland, you have to walk a mile to find a feast for your art-starved eyes. The Aotea Centre and Sky Tower are valiant efforts. But both involve a hodge-podge of glitzy, big-name works, in total disharmony with their surroundings. Selwyn Muru’s arch in the middle of Aotea Square is more impressive for its isolation as are the works in Albert Park, although I have never met a soul yet who actually likes Neil Dawson’s Throwback which most people refer to as ‘the Big D.” Then there is always George Rickey’s L-shaped wind machine, which happily whiles away the hours swinging pointlessly from A to B in the Art Gallery courtyard. Not my cup of tea. I wonder why there isn’t more public art by women? Unfortunately though the fairer sex is responsible for what I consider to be one of the worse aesthetic travesties in town: the suffragette fountain by the New Gallery. It’s the adage: too many cooks spoil the broth, and what could been a feminine triumph looks, if you’ll excuse the phrase, like a right old cock-up. It’s no wonder, with such a patchy pedigree, that when some anonymous artist dumps an insipid spiral on the grass at the Hobson St on-ramp, the City Council leaves it there. Co-ordinating public art is each too much of a headache. So rookie artists are more than welcome to give it their best shot. Corporations like the ASB have it sussed. Forget about supporting the local art scene. Buy in a big name from overseas, make sure it’s huge and no one will be able to understand it or compare it unfavourably to any part of the human anatomy. And make sure it costs a bomb because, in the end, that’s what counts. I think what counts is something that is eye-catching and can communicate to people at large. My personald public art award goes to the biggest, boldest advertising in the city, namely the soya sauce bottles on Fanshawe St, all 19 of the hand-painted giants which advertise the Gum Sum Asian Supermarket. This monstrous edifice, which looks as though it were dreamed up by a Chinese Andy Warhol, makes heading to the North Shore almost worthwhile. And the runner-up is the massive heraldic lion at the Khyber Pass Rd base of Lion Breweries. Until more money id put into engaging contemporary artists with their surroundings for the benefit of everyone, I think I’ll stick with the advertisers. They, at least, know how to speak the language.
———- Tessa lair
NEW ZEALAND HERALD 29 MAY 1997
Superior Soy Sauce Bottles,Fanshawe St Auckland City