Handstands normally garner whoops of encouragement.
But for locals in New Zealand’s capital, a five-metre-tall hand-man’s literal stand atop a city building has become nothing but horror fodder.
The hyperreal appendage named “Quasi” (a reference to The Hunchback of Notre Dame), was hoisted into place by helicopter on the City Gallery Wellington roof on Monday.
And it’s not just its larger-than-life appearance that’s got tongues wagging – the nonchalant expression plastered on its face is equally perplexing.
Seen in Civic square Wellington. Does anyone know what the heck this is? pic.twitter.com/tnYiQs5C5U
— Dan (@dancrawfo) August 19, 2019
The unnerving spectacle was created by New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist Ronnie van Hout, who modelled the 400-kilogram ‘partial self-portrait’ off scans of his body parts.
The artwork’s entire installation cost nearly $70,000, which includes transporting the giant hand across the country, and weather-proofing the structure.
Greeting its newest rooftop neighbour, the gallery tweeted: “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No—Quasi has landed!”
It went one step further in describing the piece on its website.
“His work explores the freak, the outsider, the reject. It’s as if ‘the hand of the artist’ has developed a monstrous life of its own,” it reads.
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
While social media users worldwide have been sent into a spin over the surreal imagery, Kiwis are well-acquainted with the five-fingered beast.
The artwork was initially constructed in 2016 and found its perch in van Hout’s earthquake-ravaged home town of Christchurch.
The sculpture’s ‘grotesque’ appearance inspired such outrage when it was initially unveiled that it prompted one local art critic to outline 10 reasons why it is a ‘problematic’ artistic faux pas.
Chief among them? Photoshop is not necessarily an artist’s best friend.
Unsurprisingly, community sentiment is nothing short of mixed, as Wellingtonians grapple with the prospect of living with the piece for three years.
Some have likened the sculpture’s appearance to that of US President Donald Trump, while others say it is a horrific “Lovecraftian nightmare come to life”.
What I'd like to know, is why when it comes to public art we have to take what we're given and lump it. What's your least favorite piece of public art Welly folks?
1. Quasi the hand horror 2. The shell sculpture on cnr of Lambton Quay and Waring Taylor St
— Adele Jackson (@adelespencil) August 19, 2019
can’t stop thinking about how new zealand had this massive hand installed on the roof of a museum overlooking the capital and then named it quasi pic.twitter.com/POqEWUmNRz
— alyx (@debagging) August 20, 2019
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. pic.twitter.com/xfTyqMiWhY
— Marianne Elliott (@zenpeacekeeper) August 20, 2019