City Gallery

Press release, ‘It’s Wellington’s Fault’, City Gallery Wellington, 23 March 1994.

The upper and lower windows of the City Gallery glow with Wellington’s newest public artwork. The work, called FAULT, is a permanent installation and illuminates City Square with two bands of while fluorescent light from the front facade of City Gallery. This permanent installation was launched on Sunday 20th March and is the work of major New Zealand artists Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert.

FAULT challenges the traditional definition of public art. It is a site specific work and has been designed, especially for the City Gallery’s neo-classical architecture. ‘FAULT is an integral component of the architecture of the building,’ says Director, Paula Savage. ‘It makes the building special and memorable’. It will illuminate the Gallery to the public 24 hours a day.

However, Fault is more than just an illumination. Its title plays with Wellington’s location on an earthquake fault line. The white fluorescent work’s linear installation ‘reaches’ from one end of the building to the other dividing as a fault does.

This is the first time the two senior artists, Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert, have worked on a public art project of this scale. New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere is, one of New Zealand’s most significant practising artists. His career spans 40 years including residencies and commissions in Australia, Spain, United States, Britain and France. His work is included in all major public art collections in New Zealand and Australia.

London based New Zealand born Bill Culbert is recognised in Europe for sculpture and installation work involving electric light and fluorescent tubing. Culbert and Hotere have already collaborated on a number of projects including the work Pathway to the Sea, Aramoana 1991, a keywork in the exhibition Headlands.

FAULT was commissioned by the Wellington City Council Arts Bonus scheme. The funds came from The Arts Bonus of Scollay Holdings Ltd, a scheme whose purpose is to encourage the production of new works by New Zealand artists. Additional support was provided by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand through the Commissioning Scheme, Visual Arts Programme.

Lyn Murphy, ‘Neon artwork planned for new City Gallery windows’, Evening Post, 1 September 1993.

A $58,000 neon artwork by Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert is proposed to brighten up the windows of the new City Gallery.

Wellington City Council is seeking a $20,000 grant from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council to help fund the project. If it is approved, culture and recreation manager Rosemary Barrington hopes the artwork will be installed in time for the Festival of the Arts in February next year.

The work, called Fault, will involve suspending a series of lengths of neon lighting at different heights inside the building between the windows and the interior gallery walls along the entire length of both floors.

Lighting requirements in the new gallery mean that although the old library windows have been retained they are no longer used as windows. They are visible from the outside but from the inside they are obscured by new interior gallery walls.

A report on the project said the work would be spectacular, contrasting the intense glow of the neon lights against matt black walls. It would be Hotere and Culbert’s largest and most collaborative project to date.

Dunedin artist Hotere and Culbert, an expatriate New Zealander who lives in Europe, have collaborated on a number of works in the past including two large pieces included in the recent Museum of New Zealand Headlands exhibition.

The proposal from the council’s arts bonus subcommittee was approved by the full council last week but not all councillors were happy with it. Cr Hazel Armstrong unsuccessfully endeavoured to have the matter referred back for further consideration. She said she was happy with the work proposed but would have preferred to see something considered that would have had more appeal to children queueing to get into Capital Discovery Place.

‘Perhaps something educational rather than arty to do with wind or solar power,’ she said.

The new work will be partly paid for with $38,000 left over from a contribution made a few years ago under the city council’s arts bonus scheme.

The bonus scheme allows developers to build additional office space in return for providing city artworks. The bulk of the $295,280 contributed in respect of Willeston Towers in Willeston Street was used in the development of Te Aro Park.

Keith Stewart, ‘Partners you just can’t Fault’, Sunday Star-Times, July 17 1994.

Some of the finest contemporary artwork made in New Zealand in recent years has been the product of a talented duo, Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert, artists with substantial individual reputations whose partnership has created an extra dimension.

Their latest piece, Fault, in Wellington’s exciting new Civic Square, is a dramatically beautiful piece of public art that confirms Hotere and Culbert as the best New Zealand team since Halberg and Snell took gold in Rome.

Fault is a team job right through, an unusual phenomenon in the art world where committees are more commonly seen to take impetus from art, but the bureaucracy of Fault appears to have been as homogenous as its creation. The funding for the project was that peculiar and rare beast, a creative local body initiative, in this case Wellington City Council’s Arts Bonus scheme. Now operating for a number of years in the capital, the scheme has provided some nice urban embellishments, but prior to Fault, nothing remarkable.

To this current of good intentions came businessman, Chris Scollay of Scollay Holdings. He, or his company, provided most of the necessary money without demanding any company logos, or even that the work should adorn the Scollay Building, but rather that it should be in such a place that it would have the greatest public exposure. That place is in behind Ian Athfield’s Wellington Library Nikau Palms in the cleverly built space that is: Wellington Civic Square. There the old library, now the new Wellington City Gallery, was waiting to be flossied up, and for its tall shouldered windows to be darkened to keep all the uncontrollable sunlight out. A perfect spot for a piece of public art, but in among the various works that adorn the square’s structures, one that also demanded some creative thinking.

Considering darkening the windows turned the gallery’s attention to Hotere, artistic master of the black window, and Culbert, the prince of fluorescence. Together they had produced Pathway to the Sea, Aramoana, a lyrically beautiful, infinite line of colour and light that left a sublime impression on the fraught Headlands exhibition. If they could perform a similar job in the square, the funding team would have their ‘nationally significant artwork’.

In spite of their reputation, and the City Gallery’s enthusiasm, the pair’s presentation drawings must have been disturbing for the backers, because their simplicity could not have conveyed the striking clarity of the completed work, black’ windows etched with converging neon lines, or the paradoxical dislocating, coordinating effect it has as it runs across the face of its host building. To understand this from drawings would have taken an enormous effort of visualisation, or considerable faith in the artists’ ability.

However, the, right decision was made, and Fault must be a very pleasing result for all concerned, for it is a superb piece of art, one that should last generations. It has that timeless quality of space that is also a feature of Pathway to the Sea, Aramoana, and it harmonises perfectly with the square, particularly with the neo-classical gallery building, distorting its solid formality with, a glowing dissonance that goes beyond it, left and right, and back into its depths, without actually breaking it up. It is a part, and apart.

That it achieves this effect both at night and in daylight, with an effortless simplicity that denies the challenge the project must have caused, says much for the artists. To play the game and categorise such work is to call it minimalist, because the artists have worked with such limited visual material, but it is so eloquent about Wellington, the square, deep earth and sky, it would be more appropriate to call it space poetry.

It is also space poetry because it is out there, open, bold, clear, reciting its lines to the square and the sky. You can see it whenever you want to, without any prissy art gallery presentation to hold it down, or scare you away. Brave work by the committee crowd. Thanks. Stunning work by the art team; Hotere and Culbert. Salt and pepper, wine and roses, black and white, in and out, up and down. It is amazing what you can do with the simplest things. Wow!

‘After the quake’, Capital Times, March/April 1994

If you see lights shining in the sky around Civic Square during the next few weeks then don’t panic, it’s not a UFO, it’s a work of art.

The upper and lower windows of the City Gallery in Civic Square are glowing with Wellington’s newest public artwork.

Fault is a permanent installation and illuminates the square with two bands of fluorescent light from the facade of the gallery.

Designed by New Zealand artists Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert the display attempts to challenge traditional definitions of what public art work should be. They say it becomes a part of the environment it was designed for rather than detracting the eye from that area.

The art work’s title plays with the idea that Wellington is located on an earthquake fault line. The white flourescent works linear installation reaches from one end of the City Gallery’s facade to the other, dividing it as though an earthquake has already struck.

 ‘Artists unveil Fault’, Evening Post, March 1994.

Artists Bill Culbert and Ralph Hotere were in Wellington this week for the unveiling of Fault, their collaboration commissioned through Wellington City Council’s arts bonus scheme, Fault is a rendition of fault line planes with bands of fluorescent light. It uses upper and lower windows of the City Gallery. Hotere, of Port Chalmers, is one of New Zealand’s preeminent, painters. Culbert raised in Wellington and now living in London and France, is known for his light projects. Their last collaboration was Pathway to the Sea, at the National Art Gallery. The $50,000 cost, which included, the artists’ fees, came from an unused arts bonus given by Scollay Holdings. Other support was from the Arts Council.