The ominous appearance of a massive hand sculpture with a face in it has spooked locals in Wellington, New Zealand.

Quasi by Ronnie van Hout
Ronnie van Hout’s Quasi was installed on the roof of the City Gallery in Wellington ©Mark Tantrum Photography/City Gallery Wellington

Te Ngākau Civic Square has a new warden to oversee the area and he's called Quasi. Named after Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame from the Victor Hugo novel of the same name, the sculpture sits upon the roof of City Gallery Wellington, where it will remain for three years. 

Intended to liven up the square, which was left largely abandoned in the wake of the 2016 earthquake, the five-metre-tall hand sculpture was created by Christchurch-born artist Ronnie van Hout. Standing on two fingers and featuring a sober and unsmiling face, the hybrid hand is said to be a "partial self-portrait", based on scans of the artist's own body parts.

Quasi by Ronnie van Hout
Quasi's unsmiling face ©Mark Tantrum Photography/City Gallery Wellington

"It’s as if ‘the hand of the artist’ has developed a monstrous life of its own," City Gallery says of Quasi, who was flown into Wellington by helicopter on Monday. Though upon making his grand entrance, he was met with mixed reaction from locals on social media. While some said he would be a "fantastic talking point and drawing card" for the gallery, others labelled him labelled him "terrifying," "kinda creepy" and "a nightmarish fever dream." 

Quasi's former home was the roof of Christchurch Art Gallery, where he lived since 2016. But he wasn't so warmly received there either. Local art critic Warren Feeney disliked him so much that he launched a petition at the time to banish him from the city with a newspaper article titled "Ten Reasons Why Christchurch Art Gallery’s Quasi Must Go." He didn't like that Quasi's ring finger appeared to be "inappropriately and belligerently pointing at pedestrians and office workers."

Quasi by Ronnie van Hout
Quasi will remain on the roof of City Gallery Wellington for three years ©Mark Tantrum Photography/City Gallery Wellington

"But perhaps the monster just wants to be loved," says City Gallery. "Will it find a home in the capital? Will we adopt the monster Feeney didn’t have the heart to? Can Wellington see beyond appearances?"

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