Wellington Scoop

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?

Read also
Art and rugby

Tough times for the council


  1. ViV, 17. March 2010, 16:50

    Monument to rugby, NO.

    Monument to some Councillor’s and a Mayor”s ego, YES.

  2. peter brooks, 17. March 2010, 17:54

    All religions have their statues and I don’t see why rugby should be any different. Some are said to have the power to achieve miracles. Good; one is likely to be required next year.

    I see that Weta Workshop believes it would look good on the waterfront. But we already have a big action statue at Taranaki Wharf in the shape of the Kupe group bronze. It looks remarkably like a lineout. Weta only need to replace the taiaha in the Maori explorer’s outstretched hand with a rugby ball and we would have our memorial at a fraction of the asking price.

    Some might say that the prominent position given to Kupe’s wife, Te Apurangi, in the group would be anomalous. Not so. It would be entirely appropriate given that our women are currently world rugby champions: a status to which our men can only aspire.

  3. Alex, 18. March 2010, 0:41

    It is good that we recognize what rugby has done for New Zealand. It reminds us how special the game is, similar to soccer’s god-like status in Brazil. Unfortunately, what’s depressing is that the statue is taking $350,000 of ratepayers’ money. The hard earned $$$ should be used elsewhere like improving infrastructure for the rugby world cup. I like what Viv had to say: we’re reminded of the extravagant legacy of the Prendergast regime – all with a smile while everyone has to pay more rates.

  4. JW, 18. March 2010, 11:49

    Looks more like ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ to me.

  5. Greg, 18. March 2010, 12:55

    Hell that’s ugly! I don’t think we need April Fools this year.

  6. jack ruben, 18. March 2010, 14:21

    The “Wellywood” sign, and the proposed rugby structure, are manifestations of the culture of tasteless extravagance typical of the mayor and her accolytes. For the average Wellingtonian, things are already tough, and will be more so this year and next. Roll on the elections!

  7. Karen, 19. March 2010, 14:46

    Looks a little like a zit being squeezed to me. Mind you, turn it upside down and maybe it looks a tad like a cross section of a different kind of bodily function – kindest comparison would be a difficult birth….

  8. John, 22. March 2010, 8:39

    If Wellington has to have a rugby statue on the waterfront – and I don’t think it does – let it be designed by a real sculptor, not a special effects workshop whose idea of artistic excellence is an orc.

    The current offering is pathetic, derivative kitsch.

  9. Rosamund Averton, 12. April 2010, 11:52

    I agree with John.
    The hand grabbing for the “ball” is tasteless and most peculiar!

  10. The City is Ours Inc., 13. April 2010, 2:13

    The New Zealand Netherlands Society had a sculpture on the waterfront once. It was unveiled by Queen Beatrix when visiting Wellington. Because of vandalism it had to be moved indoors. Good luck with that.

  11. Jack Ruben, 24. November 2012, 16:17

    This week’s predictions in the Wellingtonian on the possible make-up of the new Super Council must give the current encumbents cause for concern. Whilst I don’t necessarily accept their list of possible Wellington councillors as more than a guess, it surely makes the likes of Gill, Coughlan, A-Mercer, Morrison and others sweat just a little. Where else will they earn what they do now? – plus perks, overseas trips, extra pay for sitting on CCOs etc.
    As I have stated elsewhere, I hope the government will appoint 4 or 5 suitably experienced commissioners as soon as possible to run the Council professionally, and rid us of the current lot.