A pedestal for Sculpture on the Gulf




I visited the Sculpture on the Gulf festival at Waiheke Island yesterday. It was quite an experience. The weather was as near to perfect for the occasion as it could have been (today it has packed up completely - the joys of living in subtropical Auckland - or, more accurately, sub-predictable Auckland).

I had very little expectation about the event. I did wonder whether the sculptures would be scattered around the island with a tiki-tour bus to freight visitors from site to site. The reality was much easier. The works are displayed along a coastal walk around the edge of Matiatia Bay. The location was extraordinary. I have seen art in some of the world’s best museums and none had the impact of this setting.

The first impression of the show is made when the ferry arrives at Matiatia Bay itself. On the right (starboard?) we passed a surreal, chrome droplet suspended above the water by the rocky shoreline. It reminded me of the effect in movies and commercials where a part of the action is frozen while around it while real-time goes on. From the moment I saw that I couldn’t wait to see the rest.

We bussed from the ferry terminal to the start of the trail in Cable Bay. There was a buzz of excitement from visitors. A programme was purchased and some water (which proved very wise), and we set off on the trail of stimulation and edification.

As I have mentioned, the path, which is elevated and hugs the rocky shore is a sensational choice of location. The views of the Hauraki Gulf blew me away. How lucky we are to live here in Auckland. Less than an hour’s journey from the centre of the city lies all of this. I had forgotten – the product of too much commuting between the city and the north shore. I had come to take things for granted, to stop seeing things. I was glad to give my perceptions a dust and polish.

I won’t tell you too much about the exhibits – other than to say some were very challenging, others more decorative. One, in particular was great fun – an installation where visitors could adorn themselves with fluorescent orange and lime hats and scarves, and walk the trail flamboyantly expressing their own art, then dropping the items at a collection station near the end.
At the end of the trail was tent where Telecom, the sponsor, invited you to make a ‘people’s choice’. Mine was a canopy of leaves, cut from Zincalume and suspended in two layers of web overhead. Not so challenging intellectually as some of the others, but thereyago…on that note, I noted the works that had sold tended to be those with high degrees of craftsmanship and a chic aesthetic, perhaps with some easily consumed irony. One, a very large nautilus shell made from highly polished stainless steel, with poetic words laser cut from the form, had sold. The princely sum of $92,000 was suggested in the catalogue. I wonder it will look as fetching in a backyard somewhere, or, perhaps in the foyer of an office tower as part of the collection of a law firm?

We headed to Mudbrick cafĂ© for lunch. A hike of about 4 kilometres (I would hazard as a guess), in the midday-ish sun – allowing for daylight saving. When we finally arrived we were briskly told the kitchen had closed at 2.00pm. It was 2.01. So, no marks for hospitality there. The booby prize was to have bread and olives with a glass of wine at the tasting cellar. We sat on the rooftop patio and drank in the view (over the low islands of the gulf to the distant skyline of the city)with a very nice chardonnay. Not so bad, really.

My only regret for the day was that I hadn’t taken a camera. I’ll head back with my daughter before the school holidays end and make a record. Because you’ve got to see this for yourself…

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