City Gallery

The sound of one hand waving 

By City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi Experience Wellington Curator Megan Dunn

From his perch on the rooftop of City Gallery Wellington Quasi looks forward to the rebuild of Te Ngākau Civic Square. 

One wind-frightened day, a little boy in a yellow rain jacket turned back and looked across Te Ngākau Civic Square, his face tilted up towards me and he called out, “Bye hand”. He waved. His mother stopped and looked down at her son. “Goodbye hand”, she echoed. 

But only one of them was really speaking to me. “Bye, boy”, I thought. 

Alas, I couldn’t wave back. A cosmic irony, given that I am a giant hand. 

It’s not easy being a public sculpture. I’m always “on” in this role. I never have a day off. Never get to turn my back on things. Not that I have a back – but I do have a palm. I stand on two fingers, resolute, ready for anything life might throw at me. Criticism, consternation, another northerly. Or a southerly. I squint into it. I hold my hand out. 

Te Ngākau Civic Square is quiet lately. It is meant to be the heart of the city. But it is often a lonely vista, barren except for the building works and the orange fluro hard hats. I am familiar with the drill – in my first role I presided over the roof of Christchurch Art Gallery. I am named after Quasimodo, but I am a softy really. A softy made from polystyrene, steel and resin.

Of course, I know the building works are necessary, but I worry about visitation in the meantime, you know? Sometimes I call out to the Neil Dawson’s Ferns, “Do you think people know we are still here? Can we even call Te Ngākau Civic Square the heart of the city anymore?” 

The Ferns thinks the parking situation in the central city doesn’t help. “Relax, Quasi, you have to just look forward to the rebuild,” the gallery staff say. 

I am looking forward … but it’s hard to get into Civic Square these days unless you are the famous Wellington wind. Overrated, in my opinion. I came to Wellington for the art, not the wind! When the rain comes it makes deep plunge pools in the fake grass. Sigh. Can’t wait till the Wellington Library opens next door again and I can get my nose back in a good book. 

When I get too lonely, I want to pump the Ferns like a stress ball. But I can’t. The Ferns is made from silver. Besides, us public sculptures have to stick together. It’s often a thankless job. Sometimes, I think all the public sculptures of the city should rally in Te Ngākau Civic Square –our friends, John Plimmer and his dog, the Water Whirler, even the Bucket Fountain – and voice our demands to be seen and heard. After all this is the world headquarters of the verb! 

But the Ferns says, “Quasi, no one wants to hear the sound of one hand flapping”. Besides, I can’t move. The other day a drone swooped around me, inspecting my surface for signs of damage, but there were none. 

I should text Ronnie van Hout and let him know. I’ve gotta hand it to that guy, he’s a great artist. 

So don’t be a stranger, come and visit City Gallery Wellington today and give me a wave on your way in. 

IMAGE 1: City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, 2023.
IMAGE 2: Family Day, City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, 2023.