Heritage: Public Sculptures

PUBLIC SCULPTURES & SYMBOLISM

There are several Public Sculptures in the Karangahape Road area.



The Five Goats - 1999:

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This granite statue of five goats was presented in 1999 by Auckland's sister city Guangzhou [formerly Canton].

The group is symbolic of the contribution of the Chinese Community to New Zealand since 1864 and it is made of chinese granite to underline the enduring quality of this work.

It is a representation of a traditional Chinese story;

'A herd of goats discover a bleak valley and survive eating the rough vegetation. Their feeding prunes the spiny plants and their droppings manure the soil. Contained in their droppings are the seeds of plants from outside the valley. Over a period of time the valley is transformed into a fertile place due to their quiet diligent activity.'

Prior to the Communist Revolution in 1949 all chinese immigrating to New Zealand came from the Guangdong province directly to the north of the cities of Hong Kong & Canton.

Guangzhou is often referred to as “The Five Goats City". Legend has it that 5 celestial beings brought 5 goats into Guangzhou.

The goats were all carrying rice, which symbolized that they would make sure that the area would always be free of famine.

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Yiexiu Park, Guangzhou

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The Myers Park Statue is a reduced copy of the the sculpture located in the west part of Yiexiu Park in central Guangzhou, the original was erected in 1959.

Auckland became a sister city with Guangzhou on February 17th, 1989

The placement of the granite group in Myers Park recalls the longstanding presence of the Chinese in the area, although it does not specifically commemorate the connection.

For the first half of the 20th century there were a number of Chinese living and working in the Greys Avenue / Cook Street / Hobson Street areas.

Now at the start of the 21st century the shops on Queen Street facing Myers Park may be seen as a continuation of this presence.

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Michaelangelo's Moses:

Michaelangelo Buonarroti 1475-1564

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This fullscale marble copy of Michaelangelo's Moses stands at the base of the stairs connecting Myers Park with St Kevin's Arcade.

It was imported by the Milne & Choyce Department Store as the centrepiece for their Centenary Celebrations in 1971 and later presented to the City.

The gift marked the opening of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council retail promotion scheme.

The original of this statue was created by Michaelangelo Buonarroti for the tomb of Pope Julius the Second.

It depicts Moses having returned from recieving the tablets of the covenant and paused while viewing the Israelites adoring the Golden Calf. Imbued with divine fury beams of light radiated from his head.

However due to a medieval mistranslation from hebrew into the latin vulgate this was understood as “horns of light".

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Moses with Horns, San Pietro in Vincoli.

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Thus Moses was often represented (as here) with horns on his head however improbable this was for a christian prophet.

It was just after Michaelangelo completed this representation of Moses in 1518 that Vatican scholars finally concluded that the term “horns of light" in Exodus 34:29 was a mistranslation and subsequent images show rays of light instead.

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Moses with Rays of Light, Piazza di Spagna

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The Myers Park sculpture is a close replica of the Michaelangelo original in San Petro Vincoli, Rome

It is purportedly made of white marble from the same quarry as the original (Michaelangelo was very particular about the stone he used and favoured one quarry above all others).

It is the first sculpture to be installed in the park being unveiled on the 9th of September 1973.

This sculpture evokes the 'Refined Good Taste' of the 19th century when the Italian Renaissance was very popular.

In order to show they appreciated "good art" many people displayed reduced copies of sculptures such as this in their parlours.

It also is representative of the renewed interest in Michaelangel's work in the period following the Second World War.

In 1961 The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone was published - this was a biographical novel of the life of Michelangelo Buonarroti and became one of the most popular books of the period.

In 1965 the novel was made into a major motion picture; The Agony and the Ecstasy, starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II.

These were undoubtedly contributing reasons as to why the Florentine Sculpture Yard started to create full scale copies of Michelangelo's major works.

The Milne & Choyce Department Store puchased a pair of statues for their Centennial Celebrations in 1971; a Moses and a David.

After that event finished they attempted to gift the two statues to the city but neither the Art Gallery nor the museum were interested in modern copies.

Auckland City Council eventually accepted the Moses and installed it in Myers Park but the fate of the full scale David is unknown.

The reasons for selecting Myers Park as the location for the Moses is unclear, but it may have been connected with the fact that two prominant Auckland jewish families; the Myers and the Nathans, were directly connected with the creation of Myers Park.

By 1973 Auckland's Main Synagogue (1966) and Jewish School had also arrived in the area - the building housing these two institutions backs onto the Park.

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Two Bronze sculptures by New Zealand Sculptors are sited on K Road.

Post Office Bas Relief - 300 Karangahape road

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On the K Road façade of the 1973 Newton Post Office is a bronze relief by renowned artist and sculptor Guy Ngan, b. 1926, OBE.

The new Newton Post Office was opened by N.V.Douglas MP on 11 June 1973.

This building by the firm of Mark Brown, Fairhead and Sang replaced the 1878 Post Office on the corner of Cobden Street which was demolished in 1970 when the motorway was constructed.

The bronze's green/brown patina harmonises well with the brown 1970s tilework of the façade.

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The wall relief is an stylised representation of the Motorway system in Newton Gulley to the south; it also possibly alludes to the volcanic hills of the Auckland landscape.

Another interpretation is that it represents the postal service itself; the central oblong void is simultaneously a letter slot and the outline of an envelope or parcel.

Emanating from the central motif are swooping forms symbolising correspondence winging their way to the correct address.

Ngan's work has been of a consistently high quality and he has been very prolific, being patronised by the Government for many Public Buildings since the late 1960s.

His work is usually placed in very public locations but ironically he appears to have one of the lowest profiles in the public eye.

His most recent sculptural work of note is perhaps the Millenium Tree in the Auckland Domain .

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Karangahape Rocks:

“Karangahape Rocks" Symonds Street Park. Greer Twiss

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In the park at the corner of K Road and Symonds Street is located a large bronze work by one of New Zealand's most significant sculptors, Greer Twiss, b. 1937, ONZM.

“I made a rocky seaside of water and rocks, with people sitting beside them, for the people who use this park" - “Karangahape Rocks"

This work was commissioned by the Auckland City Council and installed, amid some controversy, in 1968.

The Council had previously weathered controversy a few years earlier when the acquisition of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture for the Art Gallery had resulted in a private benefactor purchasing and donating the sculpture.

For the Council to have spent public money on such a large work for such a busy corner shows some amount of courage and conviction.

The Work itself shows the influence of both Hepworth and Henry Moore and is arguably one of Twiss' greatest works.

It is a fountain designed to avoid the usual problems of water spraying everywhere because of the wind.

Unfortunately the clever containment of its water feature meant it worked very well as a static sculpture and when it ceased to work in the late 1980s very few people noticed.

Many people were unaware it is a fountain until 2012 when it's mechanism was fixed.

It has long needed some form of sympathetic lighting to illuminate it at night and appropriate planting around it. Hopefully the much vaunted and long-awaited upgrade of the park will eventually see this happen.

The sculpture itself is in very good condition, having weathered to a beautiful green verdigris colour.

It is certainly one of the most important pieces of public sculpture in Auckland, if not the whole country.

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Chaise Lange - Peter Lange

“Chaise Lange" 2010 - Peter Lange. 461 K Road

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Auckland potter Peter Lange, renowned for his large scale works and penchant for injecting humour into his pieces, was approached by the KBA to create this new artwork.

The result has been a Pacific-influenced 300-400kg steel reinforced ceramic seat made up of twelve-hundred hand-made tiles, which gives the impression of a flax mat unfolding.

'I liked the image of material unrolling,' says Peter, 'and the illusion it looks like something it isn't'.

Although he approached the task of decorating one of the city's most colourful streets thinking he had to produce, 'something which was a little bit over the top and not too tasteful,' the end result is surprisingly tasteful and delicate – considering he's allowed for the possibility of three large Drag Queens electing to dance on it.

This seat was jointly funded by the KBA, Western Bays Community Board, Auckland City Council, Uptown Arts Trust and Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret.

It was gifted to the city by the Karangahape Road Business Association.

Drag Queens performed as part of the offical opening on Friday 28 May 2010 at 7.30pm.

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Hau te Kapaka “The Flapping Wind"

Hau te Kapaka “The Flapping Wind" - Rachel Walters

In 2011 the first two of three bronze items by Rachel Walters were installed at the Queen Street entrance to Myers Park.

Hau te Kapaka “The Flapping Wind" comments on the effects of pollution and human activity on the natural world and wildlife.

Their small scale and humour are specifically intended to attract the engagement of children.

The third piece was installed in 2013.

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K Road Pylons:

K Road Pylons 2011 - Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi

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In 2011 the Karangahape Road Overbridge had a $2.1 million upgrade as part of the Rugby World Cup Celebration.

Designed by Opus Architecture and funded by Auckland Transport, it took 6 weeks to complete.

Included in the design were three internally lit perpex pylons which act as entry markers for the bridge..

Renowned Tongan artist Filipe Tohi, who has been working with the KBA on its Rugby World Cup 2011 Adopt-A-Second-Team events programme, was approached by the Karangahape Road Business Association to supply artwork for the pylons.

Known for his geometrical sculptures in stone, wood and metal, based on the traditional Tongan practice of lashing or lalava, Filipe created patterns with links to the elements of earth and water which take inspiration from the poles' environmental placing - within sight of Mt Eden to the south and the Waitemata Harbour to the north.

Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi was born in Ngele'ia, Nuku'alofa, Tonga, and immigrated to New Zealand in 1978.

Tohi's contemporary paintings and sculptures are imbued with his island heritage.

He incorporates Pacific and Maori iconography in his work but it goes deeper than that.

Tohi is a Tufunga Lalava, a master craftsman of the traditional art of lalava - the Pan-Pacific technology used on houses, canoes, and tools before the introduction of Western materials.

Tohi has studied the construction of lalava to understand the patterns and language hidden inside the layers of sennit, which he recreates in his own contemporary art of 'lalavaometry'.

During a 2004 project for the Samoan Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese, Tohi lashed a Fale Maota at Nofo'ali'i near Apia with a theme of the intertwined history of Tonga and Samoa.

Tamasese bestowed the title Sopolemalama ('bringer of light') in appreciation for his efforts.

“I have identified a visual language within the lalava that was not only used by our ancestors for voyaging, but it communicated principles of cultural knowledge and history. For me the sennit patterns of the Pacific convey our memories and experiences as well as carry us from place to place."



Edward Bennett, K Road Historian. If you would like more information email business@kroad.com