Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Artwork still off limits

The Deacon sculpture is worth a cool $2.5 million but is currently off-limits due to construction.
The Deacon sculpture is worth a cool $2.5 million but is currently off-limits due to construction.

Auckland Council's most valuable piece of art has been off-limits inside a construction site for seven months.

A $2.5 million masterpiece at the foot of council's Albert St headquarters has been hidden behind two wire fences since December as work to prevent stone slabs falling off the 31-storey building continues.

The Richard Deacon sculpture Nobody Here But Us has the highest insurance value of any work in Auckland Council's art collection - a 74-page portfolio insured for more than $14m.

Council is confident the sculpture is adequately protected from the recladding project, the cost of which has blown out from $4m to an estimated $31m, according to a confidential report.

The sculpture was part of the 2012 property deal that saw ratepayers fork out $128.5m to buy and fit out the 25-year-old former ASB Tower.

Despite being fenced off since Christmas, the sculpture was the subject of a council "art spotlight" in February - which said "Nobody Here But Us can be viewed day or night on the corner of Wellesley and Federal streets".

However, anyone wanting to accept that invitation is in for an abstract experience. The sculpture is partially screened off behind two fences, with building materials strewn around it and signs ordering people to keep out and warnings of falling debris.

Council renewed the work in October, two months before it was blocked off, with a "fresh coat of custom-matched enamel paint" which "has a micro bead in the paint that replicates a hammered finish".

Council says the sculpture "will be reopened to the public once cladding work is complete" but did not offer a date.

Deacon, a 66-year-old British artist, describes himself as a fabricator. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1999, after Nobody Here But Us was created in 1991.

Deacon's work explores language and movement to give new meaning to shapes and objects.

- Herald on Sunday

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