Art Sculpture Walk, Auckland Domain
Have you ever seen something from afar, and wondered what it was? Every day I gaze across Grafton Gully to a big white blob sitting in a clearing at the bottom of the Auckland Domain. It finally got the better of me and I turned to trusty Google to investigate, and was informed that it was a sculptures erected in 2004/2005 as part of the Auckland Domain Sculpture Walk.
Armed with a very confusing map and spying a tall silver statue near the Wintergarden, we parked the car, put the dog on her lead, and let the discovery begin.
Straight away I had my first map reading mistake – the shiny futuristic tree, while technically a sculpture, does not make up part of the official Sculpture Walk. Guy Nygan’s “Millennium Tree” was a controversial gift to Auckland in 2000 by the New Zealand Chinese Community, before finally finding its home between the palms in the Domain in 2005.
On the other side of the road, beyond the Winter Garden Café, we discovered our first official sculpture of the walk, “Spring” by Christine Hellyar. Apparently, this sculpture is to commemorate the volcanic origins of the Domain, with the grooves on the rocks, reminding us of how water is crucial for growth of living things. While I was somewhat underwhelmed by Spring’s impact, and the husband made comments under his breath about people’s interpretation of what art is, the dog found ‘springing’ around the flat rocks behind the fern fronds great fun.
After some help from the husband with my less than capable map reading skills, we found the trail leading to the next few sculptures.
Being a sunny, yet very soggy, day underfoot, we didn’t get up too close to Charlotte Fishers “Arc”. The prongs, which to me resembled an upside down rake or someone waving, are actually ancient European petroglyph representations of people in a boat.
Further along the track we encountered “Numbers are the Language of Nature” by Chiara Corbelletto. Now this sculpture made more of an impact! Imagine a giant pattern of golden triangle pillows stacked on a concrete wave base. This artwork was definitely the most fun and lively piece of the sculpture walk.
Near the Stanley Street entrance to the Domain, we finally came face to face with my white blob – Louise Purvis’ creation named “Promise Boat”. Shaped more like a surfboard covered in thick white rope, than a boat, it is created from Italian Bardiglio marble and basalt.
This is where we found “Regeneration” by Neil Miller, entwining industrialism (steel tower) with nature (vines growing up the structure). The vines changes it’s appearance with the different seasons, to “suggest the constant renewal of life”, hence the name.
Continuing our journey towards the Museum, we passed by many interesting and gnarly shaped trees, which were artistic in their own right, before finding the 1921 Robbie Burns Statue (also not part of the official sculpture trail, but see photo at the bottom of this post) gazing down onto John Edgar’s “Transformer” sculpture. This granite artwork featuring maroon stripes “acknowledges the shaping and re-shaping of stone by natural and human forces”.
These sculptures weren’t placed in the Domain to only be viewed. The nice thing about these installations is that they were made to be touched, climbed on and interacted with. The “Transformer”, transforms into a picnic table or seat to kick back and read your newspaper on, while you can imagine kids swinging off “Regeneration”.
From here we hiked up the hill to the Museum’s dome entrance to behold Fred Graham’s ‘Kaitiaki’. From up close this steel sculpture reminded me of a giant gray shark fin, but when you step back, the structure takes the shape of a giant bird of prey. My husband voted Kaitiaki as his favourite sculpture, and I must admit, I was a fan too.
Nearing the car, we took a peek inside the Wintergarden. The formal courtyard is surrounded by classical marble statues, with a pond separating the two glass houses. The cool house (opened in 1921) currently features colourful plantings of capsicum and pepper plants, while the opposing tropical glass house includes a fish pond with waterlillies.
Also included in the Wintergarden is the Fernery. It was here that stumbled upon the last sculpture (well actually sculptures). Hidden between the native plantings stands ten small bronze statues created by Greer Twiss. Dubbed “Graftings” the artworks included – one pear tree, and nine indigenous New Zealand (kiwi, pukeko, wood pigeon, tui and more).
The loop we chose to explore took around 1.5 hours, at a leisurely pace. Although the sculptures weren’t all my cup-of-tea (and I’m the arty one), all three of us enjoyed the unique outdoor experience.
Top Tip: It may pay to enquire within the Museum, at the Information Desk, for a much more detailed map than the one I have linked to above.
In a nutshell: A free and pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I’ll definitely be returning to the Wintergarden in Spring to see what wonders the glass houses will have on display.