Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Leak reveals wharf art plan

Images offer public first look at hush-hush $1.5m state house concept for Queens Wharf.

An early image of Michael Parekowhai's state house sculpture, which will have a skylight to allow cruise ship visitors at Queens Wharf to see inside.
An early image of Michael Parekowhai's state house sculpture, which will have a skylight to allow cruise ship visitors at Queens Wharf to see inside.

Leaked images of the secretive $1.5 million sculpture planned at the end of Queens Wharf show a simple, two-storey weatherboard state house.

Design concepts of the two-thirds-size model have been shared with Auckland councillors on a confidential basis, but no images have been shared with the public.

Now the Herald can reveal the first images of Maori artist Michael Parekowhai's sculpture after a briefing document to councillors was leaked.

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The May 12 document contains several images of the artwork showing a typical state house with standard high windows and stairs leading to a platform to provide multiple views of a Venetian hand-blown crystal chandelier filling the interior.

There is also a skylight to allow cruise ship visitors berthing at Queens Wharf to peer inside the brilliantly coloured and intricate glass garden of native birds, flowers and insects that will glow softly at night.

The artwork, which embodies the Maori concept of ahi ka - keeping the home fires burning - features a Maori pattern on its seaward facing window shutters and will be built on a basalt plinth with boulders recovered from Wynyard Quarter.

Last night, a council spokesman said the May images leaked to the Herald were not up to date, but would not release a more recent image.

Two weeks ago, the council said detailed designs were being worked through and once Parekowhai had these in more completed form, "they will be released, possibly in stages".

The sculpture arose from a $1 million gift to the city by real estate company Barfoot & Thompson to mark its 90th birthday last year.

Mayor Len Brown gave the project his full support and former council chief executive Doug McKay agreed to a ratepayer underwrite of up to $500,000 when the cost ballooned above $1 million.

Its largest cost is $705,000 for the chandelier, followed by $415,000 for the house and plinth and a $225,000 artist's fee. Other costs are $55,000 for site development and consents and a $100,000 contingency.

Mr Brown, who is preparing sweeping cuts in a new 10-year budget, continues to back the project, saying the objective was for private donations to meet any shortfall not covered by the $1 million gift.

On June 18, the arts, culture and events committee delegated staff to complete the planning, detailed design, development and delivery of the "regionally significant work". It is expected to be completed next year.

Parekowhai is renowned for large public sculptures, including a carved red Steinway piano acquired by Te Papa for $1.5 million and The World Turns - a life-sized bronze elephant eye-to-eye with a kuril (water rat), commissioned by the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art for $1.3 million.

- NZ Herald

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