'Works of art': Queenstown gallery owner Pauline Bianchi with her offending sculptures

A Queenstown art gallery owner is gutted the local council’s forced her to remove two sculptures from the CBD.

The council argued the artworks, depicting two sheep and a child at play, breached the district plan by imitating yellow street signs.

Artbay Gallery owner Pauline Bianchi – who has resource consent for sculptures in her gallery’s garden on the corner of Marine Parade and Church Street – says she faced a fine of up to $600,000 if she didn’t remove them.

However she argued they were works of art.

And artist John Shewry says you’d have to be a bit dumb to think otherwise.

Council enforcement officer Morgan Shepherd wrote to Bianchi on September 20, following a complaint from a member of the public.

In response, Bianchi wrote: “These are sculptures, works of art, they in no way disturb traffic, rather they have humoured and amazed thousands of [passers-by].

“I can’t quite believe what I am reading.

“These do not suggest anything to traffic. They are ART!”

Bianchi told council the pieces were by top award-winning artist Shewry.

Shewry tells Mountain Scene: “I’m sorry to hear there has been ‘a’ complaint, but hey, it’s art, if it doesn’t challenge then we aren’t doing our job.

“If they are taken as road signs then surely the intelligence of that person should be in question before any decision is made on whether they are in a suitable location or not.

“It is a sad day when art is turned into a resource consent issue and prohibited.”

On Tuesday, Bianchi said on advice from her lawyer, and after repeated appeals to the council for an exception, she’d reluctantly taken down the sculptures.

“Otherwise I may have been fined up to $600,000.”

Council PR boss Naell Crosby-Roe says the sculptures breached the district plan provision which prohibits “signs imitating any traffic direction and safety sign as required by New Zealand Transport Agency”.

“The regulatory team has updated that the owner has agreed to comply and has removed the sculptures, so no further action is required.”