Artist Matt Pine can't actually remember when his artwork "Cone Piece" was taken down.
But it's been nearly two decades since one of Whanganui's most significant public artworks was last hanging in the foyer of the Whanganui War Memorial Centre.
"They were taken down to supposedly clean the ceiling and the interior and they never put them back up," Pine said.
It's a complete mystery as to why it was never put back up. Commissioned in 1985, it hung for 18 years before vanishing.
"Every time I went to Whanganui I would go into the council and ask what's happening with the cones, when are they going to be put back up and they would say 'we are working on it'. I gave up."
Through the efforts of council and voluntary organisation the Public Arts Steering Group, the memorial sculpture will be reinstated this month, coinciding with Anzac Day.
The War Memorial Building is dedicated to the 375 servicemen and women from Whanganui who lost their lives during World War II. Among them were Pine's father and two uncles.
The relevance of the work to Whanganui and the War Memorial building itself is an important part of Whanganui's history. A framework is now in place to ensure continuity in the management of Whanganui's public art, valuable to the city's public spaces.
"It says a lot about the identity of a place," Public Art Steering Group chair Anique Jayasinghe said.
"It communicates something about that place, it says something about the people there, what they value. What they choose to memorialise can say a lot about a place."
"The artwork is completely responsive to the architecture of the building. His work uses the light wells in the ceiling to funnel light on to the Book of Remembrance, highlighting those that lost their lives too early because of war."
Pine has strong ties to the area. He is a descendant of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Te Āti Awa, and Ngāti Tūwharetoa, and went to Whanganui Collegiate School before embarking on an international art career. His work "Capital and Prow" sits prominently in Wellington's Civic Square.
"A lot of Pine's work references Whanganui," Jayasinghe said. "He is one of New Zealand's key minimalist artists working alongside artists Ralph Hotere and Cliff Whiting."
Pine's work is featured in Auckland Art Gallery's current exhibition Toi Tu Toi, which runs until May 5. It's been labelled a game-changer and is the most comprehensive survey of contemporary Māori art to date.
Pine will also be exhibiting new works at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth in September.
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