Aotea Cartouche


Denis O'Connor



  • Sculpture


  • Stone


  • H2520 x W1340 x D510mm

Denis O’Connor, ‘Aotea Cartouche’ (1990), Aotea Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

Image: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021.


Information panel installed with the work reads:

“This cartouche (ornamental carved tablet) explores the idea of the Aotea Centre as a forum: the bell calls people together, to congregate, celebrate and speak.

The artist has created icons for an emerging South Pacific culture: The Matuku (white faced heron) in flight consumed by a saw-handled mask-face, below the armload of volcanic scoria. The Manawa (mangrove) represents a rich coastal environment.

Using ritual domestic objects of jug and bowl suggests pouring, containing, cleansing, replenishing, purifying, nurturing, sharing and assuaging. Seen side on, the jug pours and images of Auckland’s youngest volcanic cone, Rangitoto.”


Inscription at the top of the sculpture celebrates those involved in the construction of the building:

“The design concept was developed by City / Architect Ewen Wainscott and Ronald Parker / Principal contractors Hawkins Construction Ltd / Fletcher Development & Construction Ltd / Principal Consultants / Acoustical. Peter R Knowland : Electrical. D Rudd & Partners / Mechanical. Lawrence Jones Partners : Structural. Murray Jacobs / Quantity Surveying. Rider Hunt Holmes Cook : Theatre. Tom Brown”

Inscribed on the bell:

“Aotea Centre / This building was designed and built for the Auckland City Council by the Council’s Works Department / Aotea Centre Subcommittee Chairman 1982-1988 John Strevens 1988-1989 Elizabeth Currey / Project Director David Stubbs / Project Architect Ronald Parker / Project Manager Michael McQuillan”


“Sculpted by Denis O'Connor from Eritrea marble and Mt Somers limestone from Canterbury, the ‘Aotea Cartouche’ is a commemorative stone that records the names of those involved with the building of Aotea Centre, located on level 3 of Aotea Centre. However, like cartouches of the Baroque and Renaissance periods, it is also rich in imagery and symbolism.

The bell in the centre panel refers to the function of the building as a forum, the calling together of people to congregate, celebrate and speak. There is a landscape of scoria balanced on the peninsula of an outstretched arm, as well as a matuku (white-faced heron) in full flight consumed by a saw-handled mask face. This is a complex image containing suggestions of inspiration, determination and belonging. The artist sees these as a new set of icons for a newly emerging South Pacific culture.

The jug and bowl in the left side panel were chosen for their significance as ritual domestic objects. They symbolise containing, pouring, cleansing, replenishing, purifying, nurturing, sharing, and assuaging. The jug is pouring an upright image of Rangitoto Island, Auckland's youngest and most identifiable volcano.

In the right side panel, manawa (mangrove) leaves fall, each with its own cargo of scoria. This refers to the Auckland region's coastal environment of mangrove-rich estuaries, volcanic hill-forms and headlands.”

- Taken from ‘Aotea Centre Works of Art’, edited by Tara Werner, written by Karen Scherer and Katherine Findlay.

Denis O'Connor: “All the images relate to the geological nature of the Auckland isthmus and our relationship to this. As well as this strong identification with locale and environmental processes, the images used evoke the function and purpose that a performance and theatrical centre ritually involves.”

Aotea Centre opening hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
  • Saturday, Sunday & Public holidays: Open when scheduled events are taking place in the Aotea Centre. The venue opens 90 minutes before an event/show.

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