29 May 2018

New Zealand artists’ work to cover exterior of New Zealand International Convention Centre

Two of the largest pieces of public art ever created in New Zealand will soon adorn the exterior of the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) under construction in central Auckland.

The works by two New Zealand artists, Sara Hughes and Peata Larkin, have been commissioned by SKYCITY Entertainment Group and will span a total of 5,760sqm once fully installed on the four external walls of the NZICC.

The two artworks comprise 2,400sqm of glass over 550 panels that wrap around the top level of the NZICC, and 13,500 terracotta tiles that form a spine wall alongside the retail and dining laneway beside the new centre.

Installation of the glass panels will begin later this year, while the terracotta tiles will be installed from mid-2019.

General Manager NZICC, Callum Mallett, says a building of the size and scale of the NZICC offers a rare opportunity to showcase New Zealand’s culture and environment.

“We feel Sara and Peata have absolutely achieved our objective of presenting the building and its surrounds as a unique experience of New Zealand to our local and international visitors. These pieces of art are of a scale that people across Auckland, and those within the NZICC, can appreciate and experience in very personal ways,” says Mr Mallett.

Warren and Mahoney, who designed the NZICC in association with Moller Architects and Woods Bagot, say the highly collaborative design process has leveraged the NZICC’s original design brief to create a building with enduring civic presence and identity.

“We worked closely with Peata and Sara to achieve the complete integration of the artwork into the fabric of the building. Their works complement and amplify not only the key qualities of the building - the weight and substance of the spine wall, and the lightness and transparency of the level 5 prefunction spaces - but also each other, to celebrate and herald the Centre's location here in Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa," says Richard Archbold, Project Architect.

New Zealand art consultant and curator Hamish Keith CNZM OBE, commends the artwork, saying, “Sara Hughes’ work well satisfies the physical challenges of the site and the larger impacts of the building on the landscape.

“The work also draws for its impact on the fluid nature of the city’s climate shifts, reflecting the constantly changing skyscape. In design and colour it also has echoes of Auckland’s volcanic landscape.’’

The huge glass artwork features vertical fin panels on the east and west walls of the NZICC and flat glass panels on the north and south sides. The imagery uses 60 different colour tones, and is inspired by Mrs Hughes’ upbringing in rural Northland near the Waipoua kauri forest.

Sara Hughes

“The artwork reflects the experience of walking through the New Zealand bush and looking up through a canopy of trees to see the unique light and colour of the forest,’’ says Mrs Hughes.

“To me, it reflects our unique ecosystem and brings the experience of our natural environment to the central city.”

Peata Larkin’s 105m-long terracotta tile wall will span from Hobson Street to Nelson Street through the future laneway of the NZICC, and wraps back into the building.

Approximately 13,500 terracotta tiles in eight different colours will form a complementary relationship with the glass artwork, and aims to soften and add movement and life to what would have been a straight plain wall.

Sara Hughes is a dynamic artist with a career well established and highly regarded in Australasia. Based in Auckland she is known for her vibrant installations and public commissions. Her large scale artworks meld colour, pattern and light into architectural space in memorable ways.

Hughes has exhibited widely and her paintings and installations are held in many important public and private collections including the Chartwell Collection, Auckland City Art Gallery, Te Papa, The Wallace Arts Trust, University of Auckland, Hocken Library and the Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

Her work has attracted significant attention; she was the paramount winner of the Wallace Art Awards (2005), winner of the Norsewear Art Award (2005) and was the first New Zealand recipient of The RIPE: Art and Australia magazine Art Award (2008). She was noted in Art News last year as being among the most accomplished mid-career artists operating in New Zealand today.

Hughes has undertaken a number of high profile public commissions including the creation of a series of striking outdoor works for the re-opening of Cathedral Square in Christchurch.

Sara is represented by Gowlangsford Gallery, Auckland | Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

Peata Larkin

“I wanted to create an artwork that described the multiple waterways and fertile soil Tāmaki Makaurau (and Aotearoa) possesses, as well as connect strongly and aesthetically to Sara Hughes’ glasswork. I wanted to soften the long wall and achieved this by creating an undulated geometric pattern inspired by traditional Maori weaving; a subtle three dimensional presence that would visually change dependent on the angle it was viewed from,” says Mrs Larkin.

The two Kiwi artists were selected following initial proposals, and Mr Mallet says their work has been well-received in consultation with Auckland Council, the Crown, other key NZICC stakeholders and members of the arts community.

“With the size, scale and timeline of the project, we knew that Sara and Peata were our best selections as they had experience in, and the capability to, deliver breathtaking works of scale that would set the building apart, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in New Zealand before,” Mr Mallet says.

“This building sits on the ridgeline of Hobson and Nelson Streets and when complete, the artworks will bring a range and richness of colours we don’t see in Auckland’s CBD.’’

LED RGB lighting installed within the works will also enable the building to come to life at night with a choreography of changing colour in concert with the nearby Sky Tower.

The 550 glass panels were manufactured in Singapore, while the 13,500 clay tiles were fired in Spain. Both works are being assembled and installed by New Zealand companies.

The NZICC is being built by Fletcher Construction Company, a subsidiary of Fletcher Building and is fully funded by SKYCITY under an agreement with the Crown. The art and its installation are part of the budgeted $703m cost of constructing the NZICC and Horizon Hotel.

The NZICC will be New Zealand’s largest purpose-built convention centre, with capacity to take events of up to 4000 people, and was designed in collaboration with the global business events industry to ensure a sustainable building that can be enjoyed by both local and international conferences of all sizes.

Peata Larkin is a contemporary Maori artist currently living in Auckland. She was born in Rotorua and is of Tūhourangi, Ngāti Whakaue and Tūwharetoa descendant.
Larkin is an artist who plays with interactions of light and shadow and the space an artwork occupies, weaving an elaborate spatial tapestry of pattern, colour and texture with strong references to Maori history, art history and genealogy. A fundamental aspect of her work is repetition and she has exploited all its qualities of harmony and order and then added scale to the matrix in order to create this very significant artwork.

Larkin’s work is held in public and private collections throughout New Zealand and in Australia, UK, Dubai and USA, including: Auckland City Council; ANZ Tower, Memphis Museum of Fine Art, Pataka Porirua Museum & Art Gallery, Waikato University, Massey University, and the Wallace Trust Collection.

Peata is represented by Two Rooms

By the numbers:

The total size of both artworks is 5,760sqm. Sara Hughes’ glass artwork is 2,400sqm in total, and the glass artwork on Southern wall is overall 105m long and made up of panels 1.5m wide and between 1.2m to 3.675m tall. Peata Larkin’s terracotta wall is 3,360sqm in total, and is 105m long and approximately 31m tall. There are approximately 13,500 tiles used and each tile is 1,250mm high by 250mm wide.

How many glass panels?

  • 550 glass panels in total, including:
  • 230 individual panels on the southern wall
  • 75 panels on the northern wall
  • 98 glass fins, 49 on the east and west walls respectively

How many different colours?

  • 60 different colour shades used in Sara Hughes’ glass artwork
  • Eight different coloured tiles used in Peata Larkin’s terracotta wall

When will they be installed?

  • The glass panels will begin installation in late 2018
  • Terracotta tiles will be installed in 2019