Hundertwasser Art Centre

Our weekend plans were somewhat disrupted by high winds. So instead of taking the charter boat out to the Poor Knights for snorkeling etc, Lee and I went into Whangarei to visit the new Hundertwasser Art Centre.

It took a lot of years to raise the funds and overcome the city planning obstacles, but the Art Centre now becomes one of Whangarei’s marquee attractions. It was cool to be there in its first month of operation.

Hundertwasser was already a well-established artist, architect, and eco-activist when he moved to northern NZ. I knew about the public toilets in Kawakawa, and had a vague inkling of his other work, but the Art Centre visit gave me a much fuller perspective on who he was and what he did.

The plantings on the forested roof (largest such thing in the Southern Hemisphere) were all donated by our friend Tom’s brother who runs a native plant nursery.

I want to use the word whimsical to describe Hundertwasser’s style… no straight lines, no uniform patterns, big bold colors. But I don’t know if I found much whimsy in the man after learning a bit about him. It was all brooding contemplation, leading to manifestos and idealistic rants and calls to unshackle oneself from the chains of conventionality. And there was an element of narcissism that struck me sharply. Lighten up man!

I liked the place even so, and certainly agree with what he seemed to stand for. I hope the Art Centre educates and delights and challenges visitors, and anchors that waterfront area, for generations to come.

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