Anytime an artist installs a public artwork, it inevitably attracts praise and criticism from locals. Well, Quasi, a 2016 sculpture by Ronnie van Hout has definitely had that response and now, a new city is getting to weigh in.
The five-metre tall sculpture of a hand eerily peers out over the rooftops. Quasi isn’t just a disembodied hand, either, on the back of the palm is a face. Its thumb kind of resembles an arm while it stands on its index and middle fingers. With a stern expression, it was flown to its new location above a contemporary art gallery in New Zealand’s capital city via helicopter.
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Sure, we could show you more beautiful New Zealand scenery and nature and wildlife… but how about this creepy, vaguely obscene, yet oddly majestic anthropomorphic hand statue instead?? His name is Quasi, he’s newly (and controversially) installed on top of the art gallery and going to be part of the Wellington skyline for the next three years or so. Modern art is WILD.
Van Hout created the artwork for Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, after Kaikoura, a town just north of Christchurch, was hit with a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. The quake killed two people and caused a lot of damage even in Christchurch. Quasi was placed atop a building in the city’s Civic Square to liven up the area following the disaster, but not everyone was in love with it. Now, it’s made its way to Wellington for a three-year stint peering out at passers-by, terrifying and entertaining them at the same time.
While Quasi was on view in Christchurch, it accrued its fair share of disdain. It even provoked a local artist to write a blistering review in the form of a listicle titled ‘Ten reasons why Christchurch Art Gallery’s Quasi must go.’ Among those reasons was that ‘Quasi‘s ring finger appears to be inappropriately and belligerently pointing at pedestrians and office workers.’ Since it moved to Wellington, it has received similar responses. Many have taken to Twitter with lively comments on the sculpture while one person even said the sculpture looked ‘a Lovecraftian nightmare [that] has come to life.’ Some, though, have grown to like the sculpture feeling like it has become part of the city’s landscape. One tweet read: ‘So the hand with the face is no longer in Christchurch and honestly I will miss it, but now Wellington can feel the sheer terror that thing brings.’ Another said: ‘Decided to go see Ronnie van Hout’s “Quasi” for myself. I’m not sure I can entirely explain why but this pompous-looking, puffy, pale stale & male hand-person made me laugh out loud. And something that makes me laugh is a welcome addition to my urban wanderings.’
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No—Quasi has landed! This morning, Ronnie van Hout’s Quasi was installed on our roof. Quasi is a joint project with Wellington Sculpture Trust, with support from Wellington City Council, Wellington Community Trust, and Richard Burrell. pic.twitter.com/9MaHc9gB71
— CityGalleryWgtn (@CityGalleryWgtn) August 18, 2019
Quasi has also drawn attention for its face as many have tried to figure out what it looks like. Some have compared it to Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame but many think it resembles US president Donald Trump. However, that wasn’t van Hout’s intention when he made it. In fact, ‘[t]he giant hybrid face-hand is based on scans of the artist’s own body parts,’ says the Wellington gallery’s website. ‘It’s as if “the hand of the artist” has developed a monstrous life of its own.’
‘I’ve noticed that people tend to have a strong point of view about the work, which is great,’ said Lara Strongman, head curator for Christchurch Gallery, the sculpture’s old perch. And just a short while into being at its new digs, the statue is already doing the same in Wellington.