Following a short visit to Perth recently, thought I’d share the following gleanings:
Grow Your Own
In 2009 the Western Australian State Government (Department of Culture and the Arts) conducted an international sculpture competition to procure a $1million sculpture for inclusion within the upgrade of Forrest Place in the centre of Perth. Well documented at the Situate Sculpture Project website, the competition received over 200 entries, from which five were selected to produce further detailed designs. The final winning entry was an untitled “biomorphic form” by Perth-born sculptor James Angus (leading a team that included engineer Douglas Knox, lighting designer Peter Mclean, industrial designer Sebastian Adams, fabricator Jaime Marina, and project supervisor Tony Oxley).
Referred to locally as “the green cactus” (according to some of the news reports below at least), the sculpture was handed over to the City of Perth in September 2011, with the artist belatedly giving it his own title: Grow Your Own.
I was directed by a couple of Perth locals to observe the similarity between Grow Your Own and another recent work by Angus in Sydney, their suggestion being that this sculpture lacked particular relevance to either its location or audience (See: Day In, Day Out, at 1 Bligh St, Sydney). Another informant, however, commented on how the sculpture had literally shifted the attention of city inhabitants towards the Perth Railway station (a vista against which they typically had turned their backs when sitting, lunching or otherwise waiting in Forrest Place) and noted the work’s robustness to any number of physical and contextual interventions. The sculpture accommodates, without any preciousness, the inevitable succession of paste-ups and graffiti, late night revelry and bravado attempts at climbing, as well as its role as a backdrop for commercial promotional events. It’s probably not a bad landmark as a place to meet either… Of course, its public funding and price seem to be the main point of contention in several of the reports below:
Department of Culture and the Arts, WA govt: Home-grown sculpture sprouts in city, 23 September 2011
The West Australian: City home for a green giant, 15 September 2011
The West Australian: Growing the green message, 15 September 2011
The West Australian: Great green giant graces city, 18 August 2011
ABC: WA’s largest artwork nears completion and divides opinion in Perth, 17 August 2011
7News: Million dollar artwork ‘too much’, circa 18 August 2011
Percent for Art
In its 2010-11 Annual report (pdf) the WA Government bills its percent for art scheme as the longest running public art program in Australia. This comes down to definitions I guess… not to detract from the significant achievements of the program and policy, in place since 1989, I suspect the Tasmanian Government Art Site Scheme should get this particular guernsey. Formerly called the Art for Public Buildings Scheme, and renamed in 2009, the Tasmanian program has been running since 1979. A percentage of the Tasmanian State Government capital works budget is allocated for the acquisition or commissioning of new artworks, with over 1500 artworks acquired over the life of the scheme, and placed in schools, hospitals, community centres and other government buildings. The South Australian government’s public art program also predates the WA scheme (1984/6), albeit without an accompanying public policy, and operating principally as a grants funding and public art advocacy scheme.
Perth City Council
In 2009 Perth City Council published the Public Art Study: Review Report which provided a comprehensive review of the City’s public art activity and gave recommendations towards the development of a formal public art policy and strategy. In particular, the report recommended formalising the City’s percent for art approach to funding its public art program, as well as the initiation of a mandatory Developers Public Art Initiative for projects over $1million. The Developers Public Art Initiative would replace the City’s previous Bonus Plot Ratio Policy (City Planning Scheme No. 2: Policy 4.6.1) which rewarded developers for funding or commissioning public art. This initiative was informed by the policies for mandatory developer contributions for public art developed by the East Perth Redevelopment Authority (now the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority).
The City is yet to adopt the report’s recommendations, but has nevertheless continued to manage an active public art program, including an annual temporary exhibitions project Transart. In conjunction with the City Laneways Enhancement program (since 2008), public art commissions have also included a series of wall murals (Wall Inc) and a wall-mounted lightbox exhibition space.
Photos: Ruth Fazakerley, 9 Feb 2012