Len Lye's <em>Waving Wands</em> on New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway. Photo Bryan James

Len Lye's Waving Wands on New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway. Photo Bryan James

Auckland Council art boss wants more controversial pieces as councillor floats pricey idea

11 Jul 2018

Auckland Council's public art boss wants more "controversial" works throughout the city on the back of Michael Parekowhai's polarising $1.5 million 'Lighthouse' installation on Queens Wharf.

Meanwhile, a $2m to $5m Len Lye installation has been labelled "completely within the realm of possibility" for Auckland after the idea was floated by a councillor.

Auckland Council's Environment and Community Committee on Tuesday approved the city's $3.1m public art work programme for this financial year. It is headlined by funding for a number of works, such as a $1m sculpture at Waterview's Heron Park.

Following the meeting, council arts and culture manager Richard McWha told Stuff: "We're hoping to get more works that create controversy."

"Those small pieces that you walk by and go 'oh, yea', they're not going to create a discussion," McWha said.

"If we look back at The Lighthouse, it created a whole lot of talk around the housing crisis, and should we be investing and where our councillors have been investing.

"That's not a coincidence, that's a deliberate role of art to create a dialogue, so it was actually successful in that work.

"It was also a point of time where we did something of significance for the city that did have a reasonable price tag, and that's where we want to unashamedly place ourselves in terms of value of art and our own expression as New Zealanders and Aucklanders."

The Lighthouse – a full-size replica of a two storey 1950's state house – was unveiled in February last year after being donated by Barfoot & Thompson. Some were positive about the sculpture, while others criticised its placement and felt it was done in poor taste.

During Tuesday's committee meeting, North Shore councillor Chris  Darby said he was "enthralled" by Len Lye and asked McWha how a trust could be established to bring a Lye piece to Auckland.

"My view is Auckland still has not seen a public Len Lye," he said.

"I think it's beyond our programme, because it's probably a starting point of $2m to build it [and] probably heading towards $5m.

"How could you assist me in maybe starting something that spawns, in years to come, a Len Lye?"

McWha told Stuff a Lye piece was "completely within the realm of possibility".

"So Len Lye is something that is completely plausible – like I said, with the partnerships model, it's likely to be progressed because of the sheer cost and complexity," he said.

"It won't be cheap and also Len Lye, being a kinetic work, it has an ongoing maintenance component that we have to consider as well, so we've always got to balance that investment with ratepayer longevity."

The council's art team works with agencies such as Panuku and Auckland Transport to deliver the work programme. The public art team also works with mana whenua, private developers and trusts.

The work programme approved on Tuesday plans and manages the city’s public art collection.

The amount approved this financial year is down slightly from the $3.29m approved last year. Just under $3m was approved for 2016 to 2017.

By Nick Truebridge - Auckland Now, Auckland Council Reporter

"My view is Auckland still has not seen a public Len Lye," - North Shore councillor Chris Darby