artwork rescued: historic pottery panels will be installed in the new terminal at Taupō airport

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The clay panels produced by Coromandel artist Barry Brickell in 1985 were given a new home after being nearly destroyed in a demolition. Photo / Supplied

A historic piece of art from Taupō, saved during the demolition of the building to which it was attached in 2015, has found a new home.

In 1985, Coromandel artist Barry Brickell produced two clay panels, an interpretation of his theory of volcanology and plate tectonics, as a commission for Taupō’s new post office.

The panels are each 3.6m high, one is 2m wide, the other 2.4m.

A consequence of the privatization of the post office saw them walk up the street where they sat on either side of the entrance to a parking lot.

Towncentre Taupō president and Replete Cafe owner Chris Johnston told a meeting in 2014 that the group was told the owner of the building and parking lot was going to turn it into a retail rental space. .

“I explained the importance of this work and the information was passed on to the owner who was to inform us of the start dates and decisions regarding the work,” says Chris.

On March 4, 2015, he received a call from someone saying that bulldozers were at the parking lot site, preparing for demolition.

“So I ran over there and asked what was happening to those signs. They told me they had a $ 4000 contingency plan in place to take the panels to a storage area. However, the owner took this out and they were on their way to the landfill. with the other parts of the parking lot. “

Chris, knowing the historic value of the panels, offered to pay the $ 4000 himself to save them.

The owner accepted the offer, and since the artwork was considered community property, the Taupō District Council ended up footing the bill. The panels were stored at the council repository until funds could be allocated in the long term plan for their preservation.

In 2015, Chris and City Councilor John Ridd visited artist Barry who reiterated his wish that the signs be installed together rather than separated as they were in the parking lot.

Barry died later that year, but Chris and the council made sure his wish was granted with the signs that will be installed in the new Taupō Airport terminal under construction.

“In June 2020, I visited Liz Yuda of Artefacts Conservation Ltd, who had been tasked with removing the 54 terracotta tiles from the heavy concrete slab they had been glued to,” says Chris.

“They will need some restoration work, but Liz is confident that they can be restored to the point where they can be reposted in the community.

“Forty-eight of the panels are with Liz who is now in stage 3 of curation, sorting out the mounting mechanism so that she can hang up the murals.

“The other six panels are at the Driving Creek Railroad to be remade using the same clay Barry used to make the originals. These panels were beyond restoration.”

A modernization of the terminal and parking lot at Taupō Airport has been included in the 2018-28 Taupō District Council Long-Term Plan.

This upgrade is now underway with a budget of $ 9.237 million, funded by $ 3.367 million allocated in the long-term plan, a $ 5 million grant from the Provincial Crown Development Unit and 870 $ 000 from the Department of Transport.

The architects’ design included an interior wall, designed to support the heavy weight of the art panels as part of the internal art installations.

Barry’s wish that they be positioned together will be honored as well as the preservation of this work.

“Six years later, we have managed to save them, restore them and assign them to a characteristic wall at the airport,” says Chris.

“When we spoke to Barry [in 2015], he was amazed that this work of art could have been lost. He was incredibly grateful that they were saved. They are an important part of his portfolio and an incredible part of New Zealand art history. “

The airport upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

By November, construction was well underway, the foundations poured and the framework erected. The new terminal will be approximately twice the size of the existing building.

Airport Operations Manager Kim Gard said at the time it was exciting to see the foundation in place and the project become a reality.

“A lot of people have worked very hard to bring this project to fruition and the new terminal will be a fantastic addition to the whole district and a real asset to locals and visitors,” she said.

“In addition to the new terminal, we will have a closed parking lot with more than 120 spaces, providing safer and more efficient traffic for users, and a more functional terminal while being an appropriate introduction to the neighborhood.

“Despite the disruption caused by Covid-19, including delays in the supply chain, we are still on track to see the project completed by the end of 2022 – so watch this space, exciting things are coming.”

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