Interesting Things to See: Public Art in Christchurch

  • Passing Time
  • Tree Houses Christchurch
  • The Chalice, Cathedral Square
  • Fanfare Christchurch
  • disraeli-st-sculpture

As one of the country’s major cities, Christchurch has always had a strong presence when it comes to the visual arts, with notable galleries and museums and the more traditional forms of statuary including Queen Victoria and Sir Robert Falcon Scott.

Since the earthquakes of 2010-11, there’s been a strong resurgence in public art, transforming once empty spaces into homes for sculpture, installation art and multimedia pieces.

We’ve put together a list of interesting pieces to check out in and around the Garden City.

1. Passing time

Artist: Anton Parsons.  Location: Corner of St Asaph and Madras Streets.

This sinewy work outside the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, CPIT was installed just before the February 2011 earthquake. Each box features a number that depicts a year between the founding of CPIT in 1906 and the creation of the sculpture in 2010.

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2. The Chalice

Artist: Neil Dawson.  Location: Christchurch Cathedral Square

Installed in 2001 in Christchurch's Cathedral Square, the Chalice celebrates both the new millennium and the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury by the Canterbury Association. The shape mirrors the spire of the Christchurch Cathedral and the structure features leaves of native plants that once grew in the city area.

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3. Nucleus

Artist: Phil Price.  Location: Corner of High, Lichfield and Manchester Streets

This striking red kinetic sculpture stands 9m above the intersection of three busy Christchurch streets, its four segments continuously splitting and coming together. The artwork was installed in 2006 and has remained in place through all the turmoil of the earthquakes and subsequent rebuild.

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4. Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers

Artist Julia Morrison. Location Gloucester Street

Like Neil Dawson’s Chalice, this group of tree houses reference the native trees - Kahikatea- that once were widespread across the city. This permanent legacy work  is a modular design, meaning it can also be moved around the city. The work can be walked through and explored, the separate modules giving a sense of a social space. The Tree Houses look great in the day and the night, their lit roof rods changing colour.

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5. Fanfare

Artist Neil Dawson.  Location: Chaneys Intersection, SH1 Belfast

Fanfare, at 20m in diameter and 25 tonnes is New Zealand’s largest public sculpture and stands at the northern entrance to the city. It was originally commissioned in 2004 and suspended from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to mark the new year in 2005. Like Tree Houses above, it also looks amazing at night, illuminated in various colours.

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6. Is Man an Ape or Angel?

Artist Ian Lamont.  Location: Disraeli Street, Sydenham

This piece of sculpture in Disraeli Street is named after a quote from Benjamin Disraeli “Is Man and ape or an angel? I, my lord, I am on the side of the angels”. The red rusty iron human figure is set alongside some similar cabbage tree sculptures, all along a somewhat unassuming semi-industrial street south of the CBD.

7. Kaleidoscopic Nights

Artist Rachael Dewhirst.  Location CDC Building, Cashel Mall.

This colourful mural was designed by University of Canterbury fine arts student Rachael Dewhirst and is inspired by the post-quake landscape of Christchurch where many colours and shapes of buildings and their interiors were exposed.

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8. Flour Power

Artist Regan Gentry.  Location: Stewart Plaza, Corner of Colombo and High Streets.

Inspired by the cereal rich paddocks of the Canterbury Plains, this sculpture comprises eight 13 metre steel poles, adorned with 153 street lamps, arranged in the form of a wheatsheaf. It’s also a nod to the history of Christchurch; fields of wheat once spread out from the city and it also was once home to the now demolished Edmonds Factory, which could be considered the home of New Zealand baking.

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