15 Oct 2018

Second Len Lye sculpture proves too tempting for vandals

8:09 pm on 15 October 2018

A trustee of the Len Lye Foundation says attacks on the artist's works are symptomatic of a wider disrespect for art and culture in New Zealand.

No caption

Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

John Matthews says the celebrated kinetic sculptor's work Waving Wands in New Plymouth has been redesigned and security cameras installed after it had been vandalised four times since being installed 18 months ago.

Made up of five 12m wands and one 14m wand, Waving Wands is currently two wands short after the latest vandal struck just three weeks ago.

It was first attacked a month before its official unveiling on the Coastal Walkway in March 2017.

Last week, Len Lye's Water Whirler on Wellington's waterfront snapped when Hunter Macdonald climbed on the $300,000 sculpture which was just about to be recommissioned after a refit.

A personal friend of Lye, Mr Matthews said many people in New Zealand did not see value in art.

"Vandalism of art works is a classic New Zealand thing and I think it's unfortunately part of our culture and we need to improve on our culture in that case.

"There needs to be respect for the works and they should be enjoyed and vandalism is just for thoughtless idiots frankly."

Mr Matthews said Lye would be horrified at the attacks on his work.

Len Lye Foundation trustee John Matthews

Len Lye Foundation trustee John Matthews Photo: RNZ/ Robin Martin

New Plymouth is home to the $11million Len Lye Centre and the 45m Wind Wand the artist designed is a city landmark.

Waving Wands cost $150,000 to install which was paid for by the city's Art in Public Places Trust.

Its chairman, Terry Parkes, said it was disappointing the work had proven irresistible to vandals.

"People started to climb them and they just snap off. Unfortunately we thought the thing was high enough that they wouldn't climb them and all sorts of things.

"But short of putting an electric fence around them or a big moat with alligators ... I mean, people are going to get to them."

Art in Public Places chairman Terry Parkes

Art in Public Places chairman Terry Parkes Photo: RNZ/ Robin Martin

Mr Parkes said art in public places was always at risk.

"Especially something that whirls, moves, rings bells or reflects. Anything where there's community interaction, it's up for vandalism.

"And unfortunately there's not much you can do about it because I believe you can put a sign on it saying 'don't climb on it, don't stand too close, don't touch', and all those do is encourage you to do all the things that they tell you not to do."

Mr Parkes said before the New Plymouth trust commissioned a work it must be satisfied it was vandal-proof and had longevity.

Mr Matthews had now been left organising the Waving Wands repair job.

He said engineers at his company, Tenix, had redesigned the wands to stop them snapping at his expense.

"So if somebody is stupid enough to climb them there will be a breakaway in the wand so the wand will be protected.

"They'll be plenty of signage as there is now warning not to climb these wands, but you'd be very foolish to do that in the future ... because you'll have a fall."

It was hoped the new wands would back in place before the end of the year, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Parkes said he was hopeful the police would be able to charge someone after viewing the security camera footage.

Both men said vandalism of Lye's works would not prevent them from continuing to commission and build works designed to be displayed in public spaces.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs