Stunning summer of sculpture opens at gardens

Saturday 8 October 2011, 8:36AM

By Auckland Council



Sculpture in the Gardens, the biggest arts event held at the Auckland Botanic Gardens, opens this Sunday (9 October) and promises to be the best exhibition yet.

Twenty-one large-scale sculpture installations are set on a two kilometre trail around the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa. This is the third biennial Sculpture in the Gardens exhibition and runs over the summer, until 12 February 2011.

Sculpture in the Gardens will be officially opened on Saturday 8 October by Mayor Len Brown. The trail will open to visitors the next day and people will be able to see which artwork won the coveted McConnell Property Supreme Award, announced at the opening function the night before.

The works, chosen by an expert curatorial panel of Alexa Johnston, Richard Mathieson and Rachel de Lambert, all have a botanical theme or connection with the natural environment.

“This year’s exhibition is very much alive with a dynamic array of works spreading out across the glades, lawns, pools, paths and hidden spaces of the gardens and filling them with energy, humour, sparkle, colour, thoughtfulness and serious purpose.

“We have some artists returning for a second or third time, giving a feeling of continuity to the exhibition, and many new sculptors putting their own unique stamp on our visual memories with brilliant new works and experiences,” says Ms Johnston.

Visitors begin their journey at the Huakaiwaka Visitor Centre with Jim Wheeler’s large (2.5 metre) bronze tanekaha branch Object of Devotion and then very quickly encounter Richard Wedekind’s whimsical combination of wheels, valves and contemporary coffee-making paraphernalia, in Barista Alchemy.

This is just the beginning of a varied selection including two collaborations, Lgop co-op and Elementals Group. The latter, in its installation Garden Elementals, brings together the work of 14 well-known New Zealand artists as a collection of ‘garden spirits’ mounted on poles.

Unusual works include Bronwynne Cornish’s Bivy, a small bush hut made of kanuka; Bev Goodwin’s Exotic Blooms floating in the lake; Mia Hamilton’s Daisy Blanket of woven plastic daisies, crocheted together and laid beneath the trees; and Regan Gentry’s botanically inspired presentation of 101 shovels, Splayed.

Sculptors returning from previous exhibitions are Jim Wheeler, Richard Wedekind, Terry Stringer, Samantha Lissette, Virginia King, Marte Szirmay, Greer Twiss, Tui Hobson, John Edgar, Jeff Thomson, Llew Summers, Jamie Pickernell, Bing Dawe and Christine Hellyar. Hellyar, King and Dawe were previous recipients of exhibition awards with Hellyar receiving the McConnell Property Supreme Award 2009/10 and King in 2007/8 and Dawe in 2009/10 both receiving the Stoneleigh People’s Choice Award.

Councillor Sandra Coney, Chair of the council’s Parks, Sports and Recreation Forum and long-time champion of this exhibition commends the work of the Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens in bringing this year’s show together.

“This foray into the art world began as an idea from the Friends who wanted to see a flagship event that was relevant to the Gardens, feature regularly on the region’s events calendar.

“Not only have they provided strong financial backing for the exhibition, they have purchased a work from each show to become part of the Gardens’ permanent collection.

“Congratulations to the Friends, the artists and all of those involved with Sculpture in the Gardens – the people of Auckland are very lucky indeed to have such a high calibre exhibition on their doorstep once again,” she says.

The sculpture that the Friends will choose for permanent display at the Gardens will also be announced at the opening celebration.

Visitors are encouraged to interact with artworks with many being very tactile or textured. Auckland Botanic Gardens Manager Jack Hobbs says this is an important part of holding such an exhibition.

“We receive more positive comment about our gardens during the exhibition than at any other time,” he says.

“The magical element that has sparked such enthusiasm is that irresistible combination of great art and beautiful garden settings. Personally I get great pleasure from watching people, mainly children, interacting with the works.”

In 2007/8, 314,000 people visited Sculpture in the Gardens. In 2010/11, this grew to 341,000. Visitors came from across the Auckland region and around New Zealand.

A full programme of events, activities, guided walks, music and kid’s workshops will run during the exhibition. Go to for more information.

A smaller exhibition of indoor works is also on display in the Huakaiwaka Visitor Centre. All the exhibition’s artworks, both indoor and outdoor, are for sale.