Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is rich in artistic creativity. It seems as if everywhere you look, you’ll find a work of art, be it a historic statue or a colourful bit of artfully placed graffiti. Whether you’re wandering along the spacious harbour or amid the busy central business district, you’ll find an amazing number of thoughtful and whimsical statues, sculptures and fountains.
When visiting Wellington, there are plenty of museums, parks, restaurants and other places of interest to visit to keep your days full. But as you plan your route from spot to spot, consider adding in an unofficial sculpture tour. In fact, Wellington Sculptures has created a website with six tours of the city’s many sculptural works of art, broken down by neighbourhood. With the use of Wellington City Council’s free wifi, you can access the information wherever you go, with the help of a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
The Bucket Fountain
If you’re interested in doing a bit of shopping and people watching, head to Cuba Mall, a pedestrian shopping street that many locals consider the heart of the city. Wellington has an active music scene and even spawned Flight of the Conchords, one of the city’s more recent exports. Thus, it’s not surprising that they have what many musicians think of as the best record store on earth, Slow Boat Records. Besides a variety of unique shops, there are cafés and bars for all tastes, from the posh Floriditas to the boozy Mighty Mighty.
While you’re enjoying the shops on Cuba Street, keep an eye out for the famous Bucket Fountain. Probably the most famous and popular sculpture in Wellington, this colourful structure of buckets tipping water into each other offers a different take on the usual fountain. It certainly caught the eye of actor Elijah Wood while he was in town filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In fact, he famously climbed on and urinated into the bucket fountain, a practice not recommended.
On the Waterfront
A walk along Wellington’s waterfront is an outing on its own, with plenty of beautiful sites to take in, from the charming and colourful boat houses to the modern Wellington skyline, as well as the Oriental Bay and Lambton Harbour. There are also a number of sculptural sights to take in, from traditional human figures to modern neon spirals.
A trip to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, is a must. This modern, interactive, ground-breaking museum charts the history of the country and the country’s indigenous people, the Maori. It also explores the rich artistic tradition, from past work to contemporary design. The museum sits right by the waterfront. On the northeast side of the museum, directly on the waterfront, stands one of the city’s more recent statues, Solace of the Wind. This male figure stands on the ledge, leaning into the strong winds that blow into the harbour. Yet despite being buffeted by the heavy winds, the sculpture offers a wonderful sense of tranquillity and thoughtfulness. It’s one not to be missed.
The nearby Frank Kitts Park offers a great place to relax, play, and enjoy the outdoors. There are often concerts and dragon boat races, and you can cap it all off with a tasty gelato from Kaffe Eis. While you’re there, look for the stunning white abstract fountain called the Albatross. Soaring curves and angles are paired with the intermittent fall of water, providing a soothing oasis.
From Sea to City
When you leave the waterfront, you can head directly to the Civic Square by crossing the City to Sea Bridge, which explores Wellington’s history from the Maori perspective. The bridge’s sides are made up of sculptures of mythical Maori figures, birds, whales, and fish, along with symbols of the phases of the moon. At the end of the bridge stands Te Aho a Māui, a split-pyramid structure representing the Maori myth of the forming of the North Island of New Zealand.
Once in the Civic Square, you’ll come across the Wellington City Library, the Wellington Town Hall, and the City Gallery with a selection of quality contemporary art on display. At the city library, you’ll notice nine stylised nikau palm trees serving as building supports. Yet there are six other free-standing trees throughout the Civic Square, helping to tie the buildings and spaces together. The ultimate piece, though, is the giant fern ball hanging above the square. Inspired by the nikau palm trees, the ball is made to represent native fern types and is painted gold on the inside and silver on the outside. The gleaming ball of fern still manages to appear light and delicate.
These are just a few of the hundreds of public works of art that decorate the city of Wellington. There is so much to see and do in this capital city, including the popular Wellington Cable Car, the Massey Memorial, the tour of various “Middle Earth” locations used while filming Lord of the Rings, and even a bungee experience right in the city centre. Whatever you do and wherever you go when visiting this friendly city, be sure to keep your eyes open for unexpected and inspiring works of art.