Renowned contemporary artist Professor Michael Parekowhai (Ngati Whakarongo) from Elam School of Fine Arts has wowed audiences with his outstanding artworks for decades.
So, there was much anticipation on Saturday night ahead of the opening of his newest public artwork The Lighthouse, which resembles a full-scale, two-storey state house, sited on Queen’s Wharf in downtown Auckland.
The fences came down and the The Lighthouse’s curtains went up revealing an exquisite multi-layered sculpture that seems to float at the end of the wharf.
The highly reflective interior, viewable through the windows, features a myriad of gleaming treasure, including neon constellations and a one-ton stainless-steel sculpture of Captain Cook called The English Channel, which was constructed with the support of research funding from the University of Auckland.
The Lighthouse, which joins Auckland Council’s public art collection, was endowed by real estate firm Barfoot & Thompson and anonymous private donors, and is the largest gift of public art that Auckland has ever received
The artist sees the work as a ‘small house that holds the cosmos’. “We have the whole world in our house. A house that you can look into and see through," says Parekowhai.
Regarded as one of the most significant artists of his generation, Professor Parekowhai has previously represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale and been named an Arts Foundation Laureate. His work is held in major public and private collections both here and abroad.
“The Lighthouse is not the work we expect, but is the work we need,” says Dr Peter Shand, Head of Elam School of Fine Arts.
“It is the crowning work to date of an outstanding artist. It is inspiring, stimulating, extraordinarily beautiful, humorous, intellectually rigorous, poetic and emotionally affecting. It is what public art ought to be: a beacon. He whare marama – a lighthouse that calls us hither. He whare marama – a house of light that illuminates different paths.”