Michael Parekowhai's state house art work set to open on Auckland's waterfront

The Lighthouse sculpture cost $1.5million. PHOTO/Greg Bowker
The Lighthouse sculpture cost $1.5million. PHOTO/Greg Bowker

The highly controversial state-house replica work of art is set to open.

Sculptor Michael Parekowhai's $1.5 million work entitled The Lighthouse will open on Auckland's Queens Wharf on February 11, from 7pm.

The artwork, that was designed to look like a classic Kiwi state house, has been plagued by controversy ever since real estate firm Barfoot and Thompson gave $1 million to build it in March 2013 - the country's biggest monetary gift for a single artwork.

The cost blew out to $1.9 million, including a proposed huge chandelier that would have shone from the house like a lighthouse, but was cut back to $1.5 million after Parekowhai replaced the big light with 10 smaller chandeliers representing the stars of Matariki, which guided early Maori navigators.

Anonymous donors made up the $500,000 funding shortfall.

Auckland Council's Manager Arts and Culture Kaye Glamuzina said the finishing touches are being applied to the artwork in preparation for the opening.

"The fences will come down on Saturday evening and Aucklanders will be able to come down to Queens Wharf and see the completed artwork up close for the first time.

"This is a generous gift from Barfoot & Thompson to the city - the public opening will focus entirely on the artwork and give people the opportunity to experience it for themselves."

The opening celebration is timed to coincide with dusk and sunset to offer people the opportunity to see The Lighthouse against the changing night sky.

Ricky Hunn, a beneficiary who fishes on the wharf most days, said the wrapping came off the building last week and it was not getting a good reception.

"It's the most hideous thing I've ever seen, mate," he said.

"I haven't heard any good feedback on it. Everyone just thinks it's a waste of money - we've got a housing crisis so they put up a state house and spend millions on it."

Parekowhai, 48, has written that the work signals a "safe harbour" at the end of "diverse history of journeys across water", with the state house style "linking the sculpture to the lives of many different New Zealanders".

"The artwork combines the familiar with the unexpected, the simple with the decorative, the literal with the poetic, inviting us to value our place in the world," he wrote.

"The Lighthouse resonates with the Maori concept of ahi ka, telling us that our home fires have long been burning and the lights are still on."

- NZ Herald

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