Queenstown art trust’s secret downtown sculpture

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The public has been kept in the dark for 10 months about a giant public sculpture going up on Queenstown Bay. 

Council-backed Queens­town-Lakes District Cult­­­ural Trust quietly obtained resource consent on May 29 last year for a huge Virginia King sculpture destined for St Omer Park by Steamer Wharf. 

In that very same week, cultural trust chairman Gary Mahan told Mountain Scene: “On the particular artwork, we’re working on something and there’s nothing that can be announced about it at the moment.” 

Back then in May last year, Mahan also wouldn’t say whether the public would have a voice in choosing the sculpture – no doubt because that was already a done deal. 

Mahan also wouldn’t give any indication of the sculpture’s likely price or Queenstown location – “We’re getting closer is all I’ll say”.

Mountain Scene
can now lift the 10-month veil of secrecy, after last week again quizzing Mahan, who revealed the resource consent. 

Mahan also lyrically described the sculpture and its site: “It’s a fabulous spot, it’ll be lit at night – and the sculpture’s big. 

“It’s very much to do with the lake and people who have used the lake, both Maori and Pakeha.” 

Sculptor King, 66, is one of New Zealand’s foremost contemporary art figures. 

An informed source says a large King sculpture would likely be in the $150,000 to $200,000 price range. 

Finding that sort of money is proving a problem for Mahan’s community trust. 

“There’s been a big draw on funds around this area – from the Queenstown Trails Trust, the [renovated] Memorial Centre and the rebuilding of Stadium Southland,” Mahan says. 

The financial collapse of Ross Asset Management also “took a lot of local people’s money – a lot of people who are sympathetic to what we do”, he adds. 

Mahan’s trust, mainly funded by Queenstown’s council, has $91,000 in the bank, according to accounts obtained by Mountain Scene

While it hasn’t had council money during the past two years, a civic source says the trust could apply under the upcoming annual plan process now there’s a specific artwork to pitch. 

Mahan says he doesn’t want to use up the trust’s entire $91,000 on King’s work: “The name of the game is we fund part of it and we get the rest from [other] funders. 

“If we had another hundred thousand dollars we’d be there,” Mahan says. 

“One thing I’ll say to you is – it will happen.”