A $350,000 monument to rugby


Did the city council commission a sculptor for its $350,000 statue honouring the noble game of rugby? It seems not – the retro design comes from an anonymous group at Weta Workshop. A very different process from the one that’s been meticulously followed by the Wellington Sculpture Trust, which till now has been responsible for commissioning almost all of the city’s much-admired sculptures – 23 of them so far – with advice from arts professionals.

Having voted to spend $350,000, the council has turned its back on the arts professionals, and replaced them with a jury of city councilors, who voted for the statue before they’d seen it. They have a second vote today, now that the design has been unveiled, and their final decision will be made in June.

Art experts have so far been silent about the statue. But citizens have been decisive in their criticism. In yesterday’s Dom Post readers’ poll, 70 per cent of more than 300 respondents either didn’t like the sculpture or didn’t think the city council should spend $350,000 on it. One person said it’s a poor imitation of the famous 1945 photograph showing US marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

On Wellingtonista, poll participants have been ruder. Forty per cent of voters have agreed that it looks like “a made-in-China knick-knack from ‘Gifts 4 Men’ that you bought your uncle for his mantelpiece in a moment of desperation.” To which a comment was added: “The Wellington Sculpture Trust must be dying with embarrassment right now. All those years helping Wellington gain a reputation for thoughtful, daring, provocative, graceful and imaginative contemporary public art, and then someone goes and shoves a lump of cringeworthy, literal-minded, provincial, amateurish kitsch into one of our most visible public spaces.”

RadioLive blogger Marcus Lush – who knew that he was an authority on this subject – is equally unenthusiastic: “Weta are good at movies, they are no good at sculpture. … The good stuff is done by good artists, not by special effects companies.”

On Public Address, the statue has a supporter in Hadyn Green but he says he may be “the only person who likes the idea.” Not the only one. The mayor said on Monday that the statue will be exactly the sort of thing the council wants. She must have been looking into a crystal ball, to be so confident that a majority of councilors would share her enthusiasm for something which so many citizens don’t like at all.

Do she and her councilors also like the latest commission from the Wellington Sculpture Trust?

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