'Nightmare' hand statue looms over New Zealand city

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The Quyasi sculpture in WellingtonImage source, City Gallery Wellington
Image caption,
The newly-installed sculpture is the stuff of nightmares

A giant hand which has been described as a "Lovecraftian nightmare come to life" has been lifted into place atop Wellington's City Gallery in New Zealand.

Ronnie van Hout's "Quasi" installation was carried by helicopter to its new home on Monday overlooking the city's civic centre.

The artwork, which was created in 2016, originally stood on top of the Christchurch Art Gallery. It is on loan to Wellington, where it will stand for the next three to four years.

The operation has cost NZ$74,000 (US$47,000; £39,000), which includes transportation, designing the hoist, and "Wellington-proofing" the hand against the local elements, Stuff news website reports.

The relocation of the five-metre tall (16 feet) sculpture, which weighs 400kg (880 pounds), has stirred up a mixture of revulsion and civic pride in New Zealand's capital.

Image source, TV New Zealand
Image caption,
The giant hand will stare out across Wellington for at least three years

Some people hate it, but on the other hand...

One spectator told Newshub that the "Lovecraftian" sculpture left her "deeply uncomfortable and perplexed". Early 20th century American writer HP Lovecraft was known for works of horror featuring nightmarish creatures, described as beyond the imaginations of mortal men.

Twitter users are comparing the face of the artwork to US president Donald Trump, and drawing analogies to Thing, the disembodied hand from The Addams Family.

But there's support for the hand as well. "Thumbs up!" says one Twitter user welcoming the addition of challenging public art on the city skyline. One Facebook user says "I love it, personally. The people who hate it are incredibly boring".

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The artwork is named Quasi after Quasimodo, the titular character in French author Victor Hugo's 1831 book The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Mr van Hout says the piece was named after the book's bell-ringer because "it's a human form that's not quite human as well. The idea of something that resembles a human but is not quite human".

Wellington City Gallery's chief curator Robert Leonard told Stuff.nz that the piece is about how things that are different tend to be misunderstood. Noting how the Parisian Quasimodo came to be loved by the people of the French capital, he said people would see through the piece's "loathsomeness, its disfigurement, [and] its hideousness and [decide it] almost asks to be loved".

However, residents of its previous home don't seem too sad to see the back of Quasi: "So glad it's gone from Christchurch," many on Facebook comment.

Image source, Don Arnold
Image caption,
The artist Ronnie van Hout is known for his thought-provoking and disturbing work

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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