Kathy Cunningham has given herself a special birthday present - King Kong.

The American-born chief executive of the Whanganui Events Trust used to live in New York on the same street as the Empire State Building, and has always had an affinity for that edifice which was famously climbed by an enraged Kong in the classic 1933 movie. She even called her company Empire Public Relations & Events.

So when she was being given a tour of the Sarjeant Gallery on her birthday last week and spotted a life-size replica of the legendary ape, she just had to have it.

A handsome donation to the Sarjeant secured her hairy birthday treat and on Monday it was time to give Kong a taste of freedom and take him to his new home - pride of place in the College Estate garden of Ms Cunningham and her partner Rob Nesbit-Savage.


It will be a welcome change for the big-screen star who had been languishing in a back room at the Sarjeant after initially being a main attraction at the gallery when taking centre stage in a 1998 exhibition called Spirit of Folk.

He was loaned to the gallery for the exhibition by a museum in Foxton, and when the cost of freighting him back south was totted up, it was decided it made more sense to buy him outright.