Monday, July 04, 2016

Going Clear

Wellington once had a brainwave about how to get some public sculpture into the city: offer developers more space if they would commission some art for their building. And so they offered five percent additional floor space for every one percent of the building cost spent on art. It sort of worked until Fletcher Challenge purchased a Henry Moore bronze and convinced the city council to allow it to spread the additional floor space it earned over future projects. The Henry Moore, in other words, was not attached to a particular building project thus leading the bonus scheme into the territory known as blurry.

In all there were about 11 commissions in the Arts Bonus Scheme and their fate has been mixed. The Moore was banished to the Botanic gardens (OTN story here), a Paul Hartigan neon which used to flash energetically on Lambton Quay is now static, the Robert Jesson Starfish was re-imagined (OTN story here) and now another on the roster is facing the chop. Phil Trusttum’s stained glass canopy Northern lights on the Terrace is to be disassembled (good luck with that) and all 400 plus panels put into storage.

Of course when someone complained, the building owners came out swinging. There was never any intention of destroying the work they claimed. That sounded ok until you look at the timing. It was only four days before the ‘deconstruction’ was to begin that a meeting was set to decide on the physical removal of the Trusttum looking at ‘how it's done, who pays for what and what the longer term options might be.’ Oh, oh.