Art spotlight: Nobody Here But Us

Publish Date : 03 Feb 2016

Workers’ eyes catch a glimpse of it as they dart past on the way to the office. Those sitting along the benches of Federal St, sipping hot drinks, occasionally scan their eyes over it. Even the person sweeping the ground looks at it, then back at the ground, then up again.

Who was to know when this 3.5-tonne beauty was created, that it would become such a talking point for inner-city regulars. Its twists and turns attract comments, with many people saying it looks like film reel. But what is it really?

Well, its name is Nobody Here But Us and it was created in 1991 by artist Richard Deacon CBE. It was commissioned by ASB Bank, the then owner and occupier of 135 Albert St. Its aluminium interior and bronze industrial colour reflect the steel atrium for which it was commissioned.

Nobody Here But Us is a monumental work, it looks weightless, but it’s surprisingly heavy,” says Tracey Williams, Head of Creative Strategy for Auckland Council's Arts & Culture team.

“Auckland Council just renewed the work in October 2015, with a fresh coat of custom-matched enamel paint. It has a micro bead in the paint that replicates a hammered finish.”

The original paint finish was completed in New Zealand, by a team in Ōtāhuhu, and the October renewal was undertaken by a company in Grey Lynn.

Deacon, the now 66-year-old artist, describes himself as a fabricator, rather than a sculptor. He was awarded a CBE in the 1999 New Year Honours List, after this work was made. His works explore language and movement to give new meaning to shapes and objects.

The artist recently had a retrospective at Tate Britain when he was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “Metaphor is an example of a way in which objects can be put in relationship without them having any necessary resemblance; two things are put into conjunction and then you see the one in the other.

"It was that ability to evoke those kinds of responses — looking like, resemblance, and so on — which I had been trying to create. It requires a certain level of ambiguity, a certain level of giving and taking away at the same time. That’s the kind of thing that I was interested in.”

The work is now part of the council’s public art collection, made up of over 400 works throughout the city, of which just over 15 per cent are works made by artists born outside New Zealand.

Nobody Here But Us can be viewed day or night on the corner of Wellesley and Federal streets in the city.

Back to News