Friday, June 27, 2014


In the early 1980s Wellington developed an Art bonus scheme. The idea was to take advantage of all the commercial building that was going on and insist that at least a small percentage of the money pouring into bricks and mortar went to art. It was a public sculpture bonanza that got the city some stuff including half a Henry Moore, Terry Stringer’s head and a Robert Jesson’s star fish like wall work. In the end about a dozen works were achieved and there was a lot of criticism that the scheme was simply being exploited by developers to get concessions on added height and reduced public space. 

More recently in LA the same sort of scheme has taken a different and more sinister turn. The pressure to supply developers with more and more sculpture so they could get more and more concessions for their buildings led at least one real estate guy to by-pass the art part of the agreement and get his own public sculpture made. His method was simple. Clip pics of sculptures out of magazines and send them to China to be copied. When his copies arrived he cunningly disguised them by renaming the work from its original Untitled to Human Natures: Many Faces. Now a court case has finally put a stop to the practice but you can understand the attraction. A copy of a stone sculpture based on a photograph can be door-to-doored for $1,250 (the Chinese even offer a ‘three for $950’ sweetener). The same work produced by the artist in America sells at around $35,000. 

Image: One of the Chinese 'versions' of Untitled by Californian based artist Don Wakefield