We lack fresh and modern public artworks in the city and our suburbs
AS anyone who works around Waymouth St knows, daggy old Topham Mall is being treated to a long-overdue makeover.
Besides the welcome addition of a couple of new lunch spots and a spiffy new courtyard, the revamp has also coincided with the mysterious appearance of several pieces of tin origami.
The bits of tin, folded like half wontons, are painted a uniformly boring shade of beige and while they look like offcuts from the nearby restaurant fitout, the collection is actually a sculpture by a local university student as part of a rotating exhibition.
Discouraging up-and-coming young artists isn’t some sick pastime of mine, but art is meant to provoke a response and well, this is not my favourite work. Sorry.
But the council’s rotating art exhibition is a good idea.
And so some journalist doesn’t care much for the first installation. So what?
I wouldn’t draw attention to it at all, except I think it reflects a broader lack of fresh and modern public artworks in the city and our suburbs.
Now, just before you start sharpening the pitchforks, I’m not suggesting Adelaide is bereft of good work by talented artists. Obviously it isn’t.
Hannaford’s “Mo” Rene on Hindley St, Dowie’s Girl On A Slide, the stone mounds off Sir Donald Bradman Drive, the foraging bronze pigs of Rundle Mall; all of them, and others, help add points of interest to our beautiful city.
Nearly 40 years after they were first installed, Flugelman’s Spheres, affectionately known around the world as the “Malls Balls”, remain one of Adelaide’s most defining features, a cultural icon — even if the City Council treated his legacy so shabbily and spoiled his original vision by shifting them during the mall upgrade.
But add up all the noteworthy public art and still Adelaide couldn’t be considered a truly exciting “art city” in the way of cities such as Melbourne, Singapore and Chicago.
Public art in Adelaide reflects our conservatism; modest in size with earthy colours that integrate comfortably with the landscape but don’t beg for attention.
The opposite is true in cities like Melbourne, where mercurial blobs, odd shapes and bold colours pop against drab grey skies.
Art there is not only modern, loud, fun and striking but also everywhere; from the CBD to every public park, hidden laneway or otherwise unremarkable bridge or roadway.
Meanwhile, back in Adelaide, the removal of the licorice all-sorts of Hajek Plaza is all but assured, with most of the city’s leading arts figures agreeing the controversial installation has had its day. And while its removal could be seen as a backward step in the local art scene, we should see it instead as a significant opportunity to do something genuinely exiting with the space, and other spaces, in the city.
Just imagine if Adelaide pursued public art as beautiful and confident as Chicago’s famous “Bean”, the murals of Mexico City, the glass and iron sculptures of Tel Aviv.
I may not know much about art, but I know what I like. I’d like that.
This article was first published in The Advertiser, City Magazine and on advertiser.com.au