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'Monstrous' hand statue sparks controversy

Quasi sculpture
(Image credit: Wellington City Gallery)

If you rock up to Wellington City Gallery in New Zealand, you'll see a five-metre tall sculpture of a hand with a human face on it staring down at you. The creepy installation, called Quasi, is scheduled to remain on top of the contemporary art gallery as part of a three-year residency.

Modern art galleries are no strangers to experimental design, but this creation by Melbourne-based New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout has confused and alarmed onlookers.

It features a huge hybrid of a hand and a face that, despite its apparent resemblance to US president Donald Trump, is not meant to depict him. Instead, the sculpture are based on scans of the artist's own body parts.  According to the Wellington City Gallery's website: "It's as if 'the hand of the artist' has developed a monstrous life of its own."

Quasi, which is a nod to Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was first displayed on the roof of Christchurch Art Gallery in 2016, following the region's 2011 earthquake.

The installation was recently flown in via helicopter, and understandably attracted a lot of attention.

It's also sparked a bit of a turf war between Wellington and Christchurch. Even though Quasi is a controversial piece of art – Christchurch art critic Warren Feeney petitioned for its removal – it seems that residents of the area are sad to see it go.

Perhaps this is the perfect reaction to the statue, though. As Wellington City Gallery explains, Quasimodo himself was misshapen, misunderstood, and hated by the people he ultimately saved.

"Despite his ugliness, he turned out to be a great tragic-romantic hero – a beautiful soul.

“It will haunt City Gallery’s roof this season, presiding over a Civic Square largely abandoned in the wake of our own 2016 quake,” the gallery added.

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