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By now you have probably seen the latest of Wellington’s public sculptures, in all its blue-column-gold-turd glory. Standing unashamedly on Lower Cuba Street, the sculpture is named The Philanthropist’s Stone and designed by the Dunedin-based Scott Eady, and has nothing at all to do with Harry Potter. Instead it is a homage to Thomas George Macarthy (1833–1912) who donated more than $61 million to local charities.
Of course, no one walking down Cuba Street knows that and at most one will ogle at the sparkly turd for a few seconds before returning to thoughts of reality television and overdue library books. For a peek into popular opinion I asked my four friends, three of them disliked it, with comments such as “even uglier than you” and “oh God I hate it”. My fourth friend has yet to reply.
Personally, the first time I saw the sculpture I loved it—but this was before it was painted that terrible, terrible blue. Blue is a great colour—the sky is blue, cute little penguins are blue, the best Weezer album is blue—but Philanthropist Stone blue seems to have been dredged from the seeping hot slime from the pools of Tacky Lake, Tacky Town, the Tacky States of Tackymerica.
Perhaps what is most insane about the sculpture is how it seemed to appear from nowhere. As a general member of the public who walks up and down Cuba Street basically every day (and as Salient’s visual arts editor of course), you would think that I would be, at the very least, given prior warning to the landing of golden turds.
But maybe this is the beauty of modern art—anything goes. And tomorrow when you step outside, there may be shiny turds on top of all the lamp posts—let’s hope it costs less than $168,000 this time.