Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Exclusive: $1.5m Michael Parekowhai state house sculpture taking shape

The Michael Parekowhai artwork will be barged to Queens Wharf in Auckland next week. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Michael Parekowhai artwork will be barged to Queens Wharf in Auckland next week. Photo / Doug Sherring

The Herald can reveal the first images of the $1.5 million "lighthouse" sculpture for Queens Wharf under construction at a secret waterfront location in Auckland.

The sculpture, based on a modest, two-storey Mt Eden state house, has been plagued by artistic problems, political bickering and delays.

Art critics have praised the work by Michael Parekowhai but it has been labelled a monstrosity and joke by some members of the public.

The house - about two-thirds the size of a normal house - has been built by Dominion Constructors under a cover of shrink wrap.

The shrink wrap was removed yesterday to reveal the exterior shell of house, which is nearly complete.

The house, about two-thirds the size of a normal house, has been built by Dominion Constructors. Photo / Doug Sherring
The house, about two-thirds the size of a normal house, has been built by Dominion Constructors. Photo / Doug Sherring

Builders were still nailing down the weatherboards today and some windows and exterior joinery has still to be installed.

Auckland Council's Manager of Arts and Culture Kaye Glamuzina said the shell would be put on a barge one night next week to coincide with an especially high tide and low wind conditions and lifted onto a site at the end of Queens Wharf.

It will be shielded with wrap, protective fencing and scaffolding for finishing work.

"Michael and his team have been busy for months now - taking the concept and its intent and turning it into a material creation.

"The next stage is to assemble the various components of the work on the wharf, and begin the finishing processes.

"I can't say much more about the final work - it will be revealed to us all in just a few months' time - but I'm confident it will be a house of light and beacon on the end of the wharf," Glamuzina said

The sculpture has largely been funded by a $1 million gift in 2013 from the real estate firm Barfoot & Thompson to mark 90 years in business.

The cost blew out to $1.924 million before being trimmed to $1.5 million. The $500,000 shortfall has been filled by private donations.

Last year, it was announced that Parekowhai had abandoned plans for a $705,000 Venetian crystal chandelier depicting a glowing garden of native flowers, birds and insects.

It will be replaced by 10 small chandeliers in a Matariki constellation, referring the Maori New Year.

Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson said it had been a concern that the process has taken so long, saying a lot things in the media had caused some of the delays.

He said Barfoots wanted the artist to produce something Auckland could be proud of, saying the final work will be "quite exceptional".

"Once it is open it is going to be something Aucklanders will go down and have a look at and go back to many times," Thompson said.

- NZ Herald

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