There are art treasures all around us in Auckland, if you know where to look, writes Joanna Mathers.

It's a rainy Auckland afternoon and I'm walking down Symonds St. Students and office workers bump against me, struggling against the wind as it dissembles their ineffectual umbrellas. Cars jostle for place with bolshie buses; 5pm chaos abounds.

But not everyone is in a rush today.

As I reach the convergence of Symonds and Wellesley Streets, I spot some odd people lazing about. Four are seated or crouching; regarding passers-by by with an air of indifference. Two stand, their spindly elongated legs seeming to barely holding their weight. Some are accompanied by slithering snakes, fangs bared at passing pedestrians. Intrigued, I trot over to investigate.

These unusual lurkers, atop three concrete plinths, turn out to be a new work by New Zealand artist Francis Upritchard. Entitled Loafers, they provide a point of repose on this busy Auckland street.


This exciting find prompted me to do a little digging for more alfresco art treats.

As it turns out, our city is full of great public art. From Jeff Thomson's public toilets in Helensville, to Richard Shortland Cooper's immense sculpture in Manukau, there are dozens of works waiting to be discovered.

Here's a small sample.


West Auckland has long been a haven for artists; and this is reflected in the plethora of public art.

One of the most recent works out West was designed by Anthony Sumich, (now sadly deceased). Entitled A Small House Fits a Hundred People You Love, it's located on the Sturges Road overbridge, and is comprised of red arches and children's paintings of friends and family.

Jeff Thomson's public toilets in Helensville show what can happen when utility meets art.

Crafted from his trademark corrugated iron, they feature colourful images of the Kaipara district.

Te Ao Whanui by Whare Thompson watches over the cycle way on Triangle Rd, Henderson. Comprised of two carved guardians and seven pou pou (posts), it was made from a salvaged totara log.

And out in Titirangi you'll find Lisa Higgens' looming sculptures (inspired by lichen) in the middle of the Titirangi Rd/Scenic Drive roundabout.


North Auckland isn't just about bronzed beach bunnies; it also has a fair swag of great public art.

One of my favourite spots is the spectacular Birkenhead Public Library.

As you walk to the entrance you encounter an interesting piece by Jeff Thomson. Comprised of cut-out words and phrases in clay, it's perfectly aligned with its library setting. More Jeff Thomson works (he's a busy man) can be seen at Milford Plaza - colourful representations of the area's history and natural environs.

Up at Hauraki Corner in Takapuna you'll find a sculpture by James Wright entitled Whakaparirau (To Equip with Wings).

This soaring stainless steel work stands 5.5m tall and portrays a bird in flight.


The public art in South Auckland reflects the vibrant, multicultural identity of area. Naomi Singer, manager of the Mangere Arts Centre explains:

"There is an energy here that is unlike anywhere else - it's open-minded and grass roots, keeping it real and having fun, it's also risky and ambitious.

"The arts need to relate to people, to their struggles, their dreams and their everyday experiences and that's what you'll find in the arts coming from here."

Perhaps the best-known public work is the sculpture by Richard Shortland Cooper on the corner of Wiri Station and Great South Roads. Auckland's largest public sculpture, He Taonga Hiranga Whakanui Whanau (A Gift to Portray the Importance of Family), it was erected in 2000, and celebrates family and the community.

A new mural at Ngati Otara Park (home of the Otara Scorpions league team) has just been completed by artist and tattooist Joe Lane. Featuring images of players and the club's logo, it's a representation of the community's passion for the game.

Another Otara work, this one by Samoan artist Fatu Feu'u, greets visitors as they drive down the Otara off ramp from the Southern Motorway. A waka with a frangipani flower in the centre, it stands 5m tall.

Virginia King's tribute to former prime minister David Lange in Otahuhu is an "outdoor room", with poles holding a suspended vessel above a courtyard.

The area includes native plants, boulders and mounds of earth; visitors can stand or sit in the space to view the work.


East Auckland has a strong art scene, and is home of Te Tuhi Gallery, located on Reeves Rd in Pakuranga.

One of Auckland's best contemporary galleries, it's a great place to spend an afternoon.

The gallery is currently displaying a large outdoor sculpture by Derrick Cherrie.

This two-storey structure resembles a modern building; and will be on kept onsite for five months before touring the rest of the country.

Also at Te Tuhi is a sculpture by Michael Parakowhai, entitled Atarangi II. A tower created of multicoloured blocks, it looms over the entrance of the gallery.

"The great thing about the work outside is that it's appealing to such a wide audience," says Simran Saseve-Dale, assistant to the gallery director.

"Coming down a little later also means people can stick around for the night markets across the road."

Art walk

The central city is packed to the gunnels with great public art, so make a day of it and do a city art walk.

The walk kicks off at Britomart with a Michael Parekowhai sculpture. Featuring a forest of stainless steel trees, it's situated with a garden of real plants in the station atrium. Outside in Queen Elizabeth Square stands a large rock structure entitled Te Ahi Kaa Roa. Made from local basalt, it represents Ngati Whatua's continued occupation and guardianship of Auckland.

Heading up Queen St, you'll encounter Fred Graham's Te Waka Taumata o Ngati Paoa, (corner of Swanson and Queen St). A stainless steel canoe, it sits on the site of the original foreshore.

Next stop K Rd. One of Auckland's key art precincts, K Rd holds many delights for art lovers. Situated on the corner of Symonds St and K Rd, the fountain by Greer Twiss entitled Karangahape Rocks was installed in 1968, and is considered one of his best works. For something more recent, head to Cross St for a mural by Flox; a colourful spray-painted work that features Auckland scenery and birds.

Further down K Rd, outside Artspace (in the old Post Office building) is a bronze sculpture - an abstract representation of workings of building. Crafted by Guy Ngan, it's a fine good example of 70s sculpture.

Now head round the corner to Western Park to view John Radford's sculptures of stone buildings emerging from the earth.

* For more info visit - Walks/Waterfront - Sculpture - Walk