Monday, July 20, 2009

Flotsam and Jesson

Back in the day – the mid-1980s in fact – the Wellington City Council developed an arts bonus scheme. The Council allowed property developers to exceed the usual planning regulations in return for including art in their buildings. The most notable example was Fletcher Challenge getting substantially increased building height in exchange for the purchase of Henry Moore’s Bronze Form. Unfortunately many of the bonus scheme rewards have turned sour, Bronze Form is now tucked away in the Botanical Gardens, Neil Dawson’s Rock has been shifted from its prime spot on Willis Street and its original space taken over by retail and Robert Jesson’s Starfish … well, read on. Originally installed on the corner of Waring Taylor and Featherston Streets with some fanfare in 1985, Starfish was initially obscured by the introduction of a flower vendor and then vanished for some years only to come back from the dead this weekend. Apparently it had been mouldering in a storage facility in Seaview until its current owner, Business Solutions, decided to resuscitate it. The work was refurbished (metallic paint, different colours) and has now been sited in Ghuznee Street, outside a building currently occupied by the New Zealand Film Commission. Perhaps refurbish is not quite the word. Starfish has made its reappearance as part-architectural junk jewellery and part-shish-kabob. Clipped to the wall or the and skewered on a metal pole, the work is not something that Robert Jesson would recognise or, if he ever finds out about it, likely to endorse. Wellington city likes to trade on the idea of itself as the Creative Capital. Maybe the Mayor could get her cultural advisors at the City Gallery or the Public Art Panel onto the job of defending the original intention of the work.
Images: Top, Starfish reborn. Bottom left to right, Robert Jesson installing Starfish in 1981, the original positioning and colours of Starfish