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The Lighthouse / Tū Whenua-a-Kura by Michael Parekōwhai
Michael Parekōwhai

The Lighthouse / Tū Whenua-a-Kura

"This classic 1950s state house sits at the water’s edge, with neon lights representing the constellations and a polished sculpture of Captain Cook inside."

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Created by one of New Zealand's most well-known contemporary artists, Michael Parekōwhai (Ngāti Whakarongo, Ngāriki Rotoawe), the 8.5-metre-high sculpture takes the shape of a full-scale, classic 1950s state house. There are weatherboards, windows, shutters, a brick chimney and a burnt-red front door. But inside, instead of domestic furnishings and other signs of suburban life, there is an installation of neon lights and a highly polished stainless steel sculpture titled, The English Channel, which depicts Captain Cook perched on a stool, looking down in contemplation.

The work sits at the water's edge on Queens Wharf, facing the Waitematā Harbour – an out-of-place piece of residential architecture on the utilitarian wharf. It was donated to Auckland by real estate firm Barfoot & Thompson Ltd and other anonymous benefactors in 2017 and is the largest gift of public art that Auckland has ever received.

Michael Parekōwhai, who is known for large-scale works that feature everyday objects, says The Lighthouse / Tū Whenua-a-Kura is, a "small house that holds the cosmos. We have the whole world in our house. A house that you can look into and see through," the artist told Our Auckland. "Our 'chandeliers' are not ones that hang from the ceiling but clusters of neon lights that represent the constellations…"

Writer Anthony Byrt described The Lighthouse / Tū Whenua-a-Kura in Metro as, "... a singularly important artwork. It simultaneously memorialises Māori resistance, pays tribute to our shared histories of navigation and migration, honours our egalitarian past, and acts as a gesture of permanent subterfuge in the heart of our property-obsessed city."


Queens Wharf, Quay Street, Auckland Central

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