Invercargill’s art heist

    Southland Art Foundation chair Lyndal Ludlow wonders where Tony Bishop's 3m by 2m artwork, Wag the dog, has gone from The Langlands construction site fencing on Don St, Invercargill.

    AN art heist in the centre of Invercargill’s CBD has left Southland Art Foundation chair Lyndal Ludlow baffled.

    As a result there was now a huge space on The Langlands Don St construction site fence where Southland artist Tony Bishop’s 3m by 2m canvas print of Wag the dog had filled the space.

    Mrs Ludlow said she had been informed of Wag’s disappearance earlier this month.

    She had since contacted Leigh’s Construction staff, who were building the ILT’s new hotel, The Langlands, Creation Signs who installed the artwork and the ILT in case the artwork had been officially removed.

    Not so, Mrs Ludlow said.

    However, the surveillance cameras around the site had yet to be checked, with the police possibly becoming involved, she said.

    Wag and another 15 other artworks from well-known artists had been installed on the fencing and inside the walk-through containers at the construction site on Dee and Don St about a year ago as part of the outdoor art exhibition Hi Vis – The Art of Construction.

    Initiated by the Southland Art Foundation, Mrs Ludlow said the idea came about because of the loss of various art gallery and exhibition spaces in the city.

    Together with Southland Museum & Art Gallery (SMAG) and Invercargill Public Art Gallery, the groups came up with the idea of using the construction fencing as a public art gallery.

    With funding by the ILT and Creation Signs, various artworks from the three collections were reproduced on to canvases which were installed on the fences.

    Described as a blend of historical and contemporary artworks, the bright, bold and vibrant artworks also included works by Janice Gill, Nigel Brown, Jo Ogler and Jenny Dolezel.

    Wag the dog was part of the SMAG collection, Mrs Ludlow said.

    Produced in 2000, originally an acrylic on hardboard, Mr Bishop had found the original Wag, who had slipped his collar, with an injured foot after he had fallen off a truck. As there was no way of identifying him, Wag was given to a man who worked at the freezing works where Wag became a champion yard dog at pushing the sheep up the ramps to the chain, the artwork’s description stated.

    In 2014, Mr Bishop gifted 45 of his artworks to SMAG.

    Mrs Ludlow said she felt saddened by the disappearance of Wag, “because we put them [the art works] up for everyone to enjoy when gallery space is almost non-existent in the city currently”.

    Although the 16 artworks were originally only meant to be installed for six months, the Covid-19 situation had meant they were still on display, she said.

    “The artworks had been reproduced with the artist’s permission to help bring the combined collections out [from storage and] into the world for people to enjoy.

    “And someone is partially enjoying one in particular.”

    If anyone had any knowledge about the disappearance, or if someone wanted to return the artwork, they could take it to Te Waka Tuia Art + Museum on the corner of Don and Kelvin Sts.

    “No questions will be asked,” she said.