It was hard to miss the giant fibreglass owl on one of Belconnen's busiest thoroughfares - and its recent absence hasn't gone unnoticed.
The controversial eight-metre sculptural rendition of a powerful owl has been temporarily removed at the artist's expense.
Paint is peeling from the $400,000 public artwork, which cost $80,000 to install, and has been taken to Sydney for cleaning, respraying and necessary treatment to make it weatherproof.
There's a warranty attached to the artwork, known as Powerful Owl, and Arts ACT recently lodged its defect with Melbourne artist Bruce Armstrong, who has accepted liability. He is seeking paint specialist advice and will restore the work at no additional cost to Arts ACT or the ACT government.
An ACT government spokesman said: ''It appears the paint is similar to application for Melbourne environment and not suitable for Canberra with sub-zero temperatures resulting in condensation and paint decay.''
Work on the owl started yesterday and is expected to take two to three weeks.
It's been almost one year since the sculpture was unveiled in Belconnen by former chief minister Jon Stanhope. He told The Canberra Times last year he hoped Owl, perched at the entrance to the Belconnen Town Centre, would become a landmark artwork.
But the giant fibreglass owl has divided public opinion.
Shadow minister for Urban Services Alistair Coe said the owl showed how the Labor government had ''abandoned their traditional base''.
''The way they've spent so much money on public art you would think in the ACT they've solved all the health problems, transport issues and addressed every need in education,'' Mr Coe said.
''Spending $400,000 on that owl wasn't the best use of taxpayers money.''