Quasi is many things—public art, rooftop decoration, New Zealand native—but, primarily, Quasi is a face and a hand. Rather, Quasi is a face on a hand.
Standing at a little over 16 feet tall, the sculpture is the brainchild of New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout. Quasi is sort of a self-portrait of van Hout, who scanned his hand and his face and then smashed the two things in polystyrene and resin together to make—what else?—art. Quasi started off as a working title—recalling Quasimodo, from Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel Hunchback of Notre-Dame—and stuck. In a short video from the Christchurch City Council Civic Offices, van Hout says Quasi represents outsiders, and the way society rejects things that are different. “It should make people smile,” “It’s not scary necessarily.”
Van Hout created Quasi to “liven up” a Civic Square in his hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand after the town was damaged in a 2011 earthquake, according to The Guardian. Quasi was installed in 2016 and spent three years on top of the Christchurch Art Gallery before moving to the roof of the Wellington City Gallery in 2019, where the sculpture will remain for three years.
In 2016, the locals’ reaction was…mixed. The Christchurch art critic Warren Feeney wrote a listicle screed entitled “Ten reasons why Christchurch Art Gallery’s Quasi must go.” Many others hated it. But when Quasi moved to Wellington, Twitter user Ishmael (@beesechunger) tweeted “give him back he was ours the gross hand belongs to christchurch.” This fondness seems more in line with van Hout’s dream for Quasi. “Hopefully people will go past and smile, and maybe that’s enough,” he said in the video.
In 2019, to welcome Quasi to their city, the Wellington City Gallery conducted a Q&A with van Hout. Interviewer Megan Dunn asked: “Should we love Quasi?” and van Hout responded “How much could we love a detached hand that has taken on a life of its own?”
Know Before You Go
Quasi sits on the roof of the Wellington City Gallery and is visible to anyone walking by. There is no need to buy a ticket.