Wellington Scoop

After 20 years, new and stronger Ferns installed above Civic Square

Photo: WCC

News from Wellington Sculpture Trust
At long last Ferns is being re-installed in Civic Square today, almost exactly three years after the original was deemed to be unsafe and taken down, leaving a hole in the heart of Wellington.

Wellington Sculpture Trust chair Sue Elliott said: “It has been a long journey since the original Ferns came down – a tale of earthquakes, engineers, building consent exemptions, fundraising and other commitments for virtually all the parties.

“Neil Dawson has now completed the work and alongside him a team of engineers and Council officers are working hard to undertake the precision work needed to install it safely. We are extremely grateful to Neil for his commitment to completing the work, particularly because it is always hard for an artist to go back to a work they completed over 20 years ago”.

The new Ferns is as close as possible to the original, but has a stronger internal structure and is cut from stainless steel, which is more robust than the original aluminium.

The Trust has spent the time since the work came down preparing contracts, organising the installation and fundraising for the $200,000 needed. Sue Elliott said: “The Trust has been humbled by the response from organisations and individuals throughout Wellington who contributed to make it happen.

“ANZ Bank was the first to provide us with funding as an original sponsor and they were followed closely by Wellington City Council Public Arts, the Nikau Foundation, Wellington Community Trust and the Deane Endowment Trust. Still it could not have been managed without the support of many of our members and the general public who have generously given to make the re-commissioning and installation possible. Over $100,000 has come from individual donors.”

“The iconic Ferns sculpture sat above Civic Square for 17 years, capturing the spirit of Wellington and adding enormously to our sense of place. It has featured in countless photographs, videos, advertising campaigns, and is often used to promote our city. Loved by us, and others, we have worked hard with the artist and Wellington City Council to return the sculpture to Wellington’s civic heart,” Sue Elliott said.

In late 2015 Ferns was taken down because of structural weaknesses that had been exacerbated by the Wellington wind. Although it was fixed several times the Council received professional advice that the work was no longer safe to be suspended, and couldn’t be repaired in a way that would last.

Photo: WCC

Once installed, the ownership of the work reverts back to the City Council and they will be responsible for its ongoing maintenance.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said it was appropriate for Ferns to return to Te Ngākau/Civic Square during Matariki celebrations, which, among other things, celebrates rebirth.

“The fronds of the five different ferns may still appear fragile but underneath there is now a reforged steel heart. I’ve always thought of Ferns as the centrepiece of the heart of the city and the arts precinct.

“As a piece of art, Ferns struck many chords with many people, and having it back in place feels like having a family heirloom back where it belongs. It will be wonderful to see Ferns grace the sky above Te Ngākau again.”

Ferns will be ‘unveiled’ by the Mayor at 5.15pm on June 29 to coincide with the celebrations for Matariki.