An artist wants to get a fish sculpture out of Auckland's Fonterra head office which the diary giant is vacating as it leaves for new premises.

Wellington artist Elizabeth Thomson wants to liberate her "The Fearless Five Hundred" work which she says has been hidden behind a wall at 9 Princes St for years.

"They're sort of trapped and have been for many years," she said.

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But Gary Groves of building owner Sanctuary was surprised to hear about the art work.

"Thanks for the heads up. We certainly did not know anything about our hidden treasure. rest assured it is in safe hands. I have asked our art consultant , Hamish Coney , to deal with the artist's representative and to advise us on the best course of action," Groves said.

Thomson said that in the late 1980s, she had the 500 bronze and silver fish cast and erected in the building but some were later damaged when people removed them from the wall. Some had also been stolen.

<i> The Fearless Five Hundred </i>
The Fearless Five Hundred

Glass panels were then placed over the entire sculpture but Thomson said when Fonterra moved in later, a wall was built to cover the glass panels.

Fonterra had more of a cow than a fish culture, it seemed.

"They just wanted to cover the sculpture up. I went in there one day to show someone my work and you couldn't see it," she said.

"I want the fish back because the work needs restoration," she said.

<i>Fearless Five Hundred </i>sculptor Elizabeth Thomson.
Fearless Five Hundred sculptor Elizabeth Thomson.

Thomson acknowledged she did not own the sculpture and that it was owned by the current building owner. She also acknowledged that she had sold it to the former building owner for a sum which she could not recall.

Fonterra is leaving the Princes St building and other premises in Auckland for a new $90 million-plus block on the corner of Fanshawe St and Halsey St near the waterfront.