Arts trust chair zips his lips on sculpture plans

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Strict secrecy surrounds the commissioning of a major sculpture for public display in the greater Queenstown area. 

“I just don’t want you to write about it,” Aspiring Arts & Culture Trust chairman Gary Mahan (right) tells Mountain Scene

“On this particular artwork, we’re working on something and there’s nothing that can be announced about it at the moment.” 

In his trust’s recent annual report, Mahan says trustees are focused on Queenstown. 

“After a walk around town with most [trustees], it was decided to put all of our efforts into the commissioning of a major sculpture by a significant New Zealand artist.” 

Mahan will give no indication of the sculpture’s likely price or location – “we’re getting closer is all I’ll say”. 

Mahan hopes the work will be commissioned by year-end and says it won’t “necessarily be in central Queenstown”. 

Asked if the cost is likely to exceed $100,000, Mahan refuses to comment, saying “it’s all about funding”. 

“In the past, there have been too many loose lips and then we couldn’t get funding from the [community] trusts and the like.” 

Mahan’s trust was set up by Queenstown Lakes District Council and has traditionally been granted $50,000 annually from ratepayer funds. 

It has $90,000 in the bank and didn’t ask for a council handout last year, its report notes. 

Mahan is also tight-lipped on whether the public will have a say in choosing the sculpture. 

“I’m not going to comment. I’m just going to get myself in the – I’m not commenting,” he says. 

The local art dealer is happy to explain how he’ll manage any potential conflicts of interest when his trust does commission the sculpture. 

If Mahan has a commercial relationship with anyone shortlisted for the commission, he says he’ll play no part whatsoever in choosing the sculptor or negotiating the deal. 

However, if there’s no existing commercial relationship, he’ll get involved in negotiations. 

“Yes, I would – because I think I’d probably crack a better deal,” Mahan says.