More widely known as the 'Spirit of Napier', the Gilray Fountain is among the Marine Parade's most recognised features.
The statue, fountain and decorative gardens are located on a portion of Foreshore Reserve at the southern end of the Marine Parade and are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Thomas Gilray OBE, a former Superintendent of Napier Hospital. Dr. Gilray left a bequest to the city of $9,272 which used to fund the design and casting of a unique bronze sculpture.
Hungarian born artist Frank Szirmay was inspired by characteristics of the Art Deco period and designed the naked form of an upward reaching young woman, which represents Napier rising from the ashes of the 1931 earthquake.
Following completion of the sculpture an additional donation of $5,000 was received from Sir Lew Harris which was used to erect the sculpture atop a 3.6-metre column and construct the fountain at its base. The sculpture was erected in 1971 and officially unveiled the following year.
In 1994 the Council designed and constructed the decorative gardens surrounding the fountain and sculpture.
In 2010 it was identified that the sculpture was beginning to deteriorate and was showing signs of corrosion. An investigation revealed that the original sculpture was cast from low-quality Gun Metal Bronze and that this, along with the harsh coastal environment, and the fact that when the statue was erected it was half filled with concrete, all combined to create a corrosive mixture which was eating the sculpture from the inside out.
In 2011 Council approved the recasting of a new 'Spirit of Napier' sculpture, using a high quality silicon bronze. It was identified that silicon bronze which would better withstand the harsh coastal elements, in exactly the same way as the two other bronze sculptures on the Marine Parade have (Pania and the Trawlermen).
The task of recasting the new sculpture was given to local artist Russell Evenson, who operates a foundry at Maraekakaho. On 31st August 2011 the new silicon bronze 'Spirit of Napier' sculpture was returned to her original location atop the 3.6-metre column.
Southern end of Marine Parade
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