With the transformation of Swanston Street into a semi-pedestrian district in 1992 came new public sculptures. A precursor to the pedestrian district was a weekend stunt of grassing in the street in 1985 for Victoria’s 150th birthday celebrations. 11,000 square metres of grass was laid from Flinders Street to La Trobe Street.
The Melbourne City Council hadn’t commissioned a sculptor since the ill-fated Vault (aka The Yellow Peril) a decade earlier. The sculptures were funded through a variety of sources there was a Street Walk Public Art Project fund the commissioned some sculptures and temporary art, Percent for the Arts (1% of the total redevelopment budget) funded other sculptures and Nauru funded one sculpture. Fortunately there were no controversies this time and the public either loved or ignored the new sculptures.
Melbourne’s art eduction had not produced enough local sculptors in Melbourne to fill all the commissions. Many of the sculptors who produced work for the Swanston Walk were not born in Melbourne but were recent arrivals from interstate, Japan, Sri Lanka, Holland and the USA.
On the corner of Swanston and La Trobe Streets is “Architectural Fragment” 1992 by Petrus Spronk. The bluestone sculpture was commissioned as part of Street Walk Public Art Project and installed in 1993. Spronk was born in Holland, immigrated to Australia in 1957 and trained as a ceramicist and sculptor in South Australia.
The steel and jarrah seat near the corner of Swanston and Little Lonsdale Streets is “Resting Place” 1994 by Bronwyn Snow. It was funded through Percent for the Arts.
There were delays to commissions. “The Echo” by Edward Ginger was commissioned in 1992 but its fabrication and installation were delayed due to a lack of sponsorship. It was completed in 1996 and unveiled for Chinese New Year 1997 on the corner of Swanston and Little Bourke Streets.
Born in 1951 in Sri Lanka Edward Ginger arrived in Australia in 1975. After completing his studies at the College of Fine Arts, Sri Lanka Ginger undertook further studies in sculpture and printmaking at RMIT.
On the corner of Swanston and Little Collins Streets is “Time and Tide”. “Time and Tide”, 1994 by Akio Makigawa is a bluestone, white marble, bronze and stainless-steel sculpture, 1994 (Percent for Art Program)
At the intersection of Bourke and Swanston high on top of tram poles, turning on the wind are four animals. Made of hand-beaten copper sculpture with gold-leaf detail there is a bird, a horse, a fish and a pig with wings. The bird is a reference to the city’s gardens; the horse symbolises sport; the fish its waterways; and the winged pig a joke about the city’s hope and future.
The “Weathervanes” 1993 are by jeweller, Daniel Jenkins. Born in America in 1947 Jenkins studied art at Georgia Southern College. He moved to Australia in 1981 with his wife where they established a jewellery workshop and a retail outlet. Jenkins received an honourable mention at the 1984 Ornament Jewelry International Competition. In 1984 the NGV acquired a copper, silver (laminated) brooch c.1984 by Jenkins and in 1988 a steel walking stick (1988).
On the corner of Swanston and the Bourke Mall is “Three Businessmen Who Brought Their Own Lunch: Batman, Swanston and Hoddle” (aka “Metal Men”) 1993 by Alison Weaver and Paul Quinn. It was a gift from Nauru even though it had already been commissioned by the City of Melbourne. The much-handled hand of the first of the businessmen had broken off sometime in 2013 but has now been reattached with an internal steel armature reinforcing it.
In the City Square near the corner Swanston and Collins Streets and the Burke and Wills Memorials by Charles Summers. Further up Collins Street there is “Larry LaTrobe” 1992 by Pamela Irving, a small bronze sculpture, 1992 (Percent for the Arts)
At the City Square on the corner of Swanston St & Flinders Lane a bronze sculpture on granite plinth, “Beyond the Ocean of Existence”, 1993 by Loretta Quinn. Quinn was born in Hobart and studied sculpture at the Tasmanian School of Art before going on to further studies at the Victorian College of the Arts.
There are few great works of art on Swanston Walk; the sculptures are often frivolous, quirky and irreverent and these are the most popular sculptures for the people walking the Walk.
What are your thoughts?