As a teenager, I thought the third-scale Parthenon of Calton Hill overlooking Edinburgh was the wankiest construction I’d ever seen. Intended as a memorial to the Napoleonic War and to emphasise Edinburgh’s claim to be “the Athens of the north”, it failed at both. So I’m not sure about another one of the same scale in the NGV’s sculpture garden.
As a symbol of western slave-ownership delusional exceptionalism, the Parthenon is best not remembered for its white sun-bleached marble but as a painted temple. Given this, I prefer the Temple of Boom to the one in Edinburgh.
The Temple of Boom is the 2022 NGV Architecture Commission and was designed by Melbourne-based architects Adam Newman and Kelvin Tsang. It is a semi-complete classical Greek-style temple constructed around the Henry Moore sculpture. It is not a temple to Athena, for Moore’s figure is an Aphrodite or a Hera, not Athena.
I wasn’t there for the architecture, the Friday night DJ sets or the VR experience of the Acropolis in Greece. I was there to see what guest curated by Toby Benador of Just Another Agency had arranged for the painting of the temple.
I’ve seen art by two artists on Melbourne’s streets: Drez’s vibrant colours and Manda Lane’s black and white vegetation. Manda painted with a brush which she does paint with a brush on the street when she isn’t doing paste-ups. And finally, there is the luxurious floral art of David Lee Pereira, whose work I’ve seen at Beinart Gallery.
The Temple of Boom served these artists well. Street and mural artists have a close and important relationship with their surfaces’ architecture, which is different from how other artists might relate to the surface they are painting. It is also temporary, ephemeral work for which they are well suited. The tree branch from the NGV’s garden grows into the temple, mixing with the built environment like a reverse of Pereira’s painting.
I’m interested in how street artists work in gallery settings. Within the gallery cage’s confines, the wild art will start to exhibit domesticated behaviour. It is kind of a litmus test for art galleries; are they an anaesthetic environment for art or institutions of colonial appropriation? Not that the Temple of Boom is either of these, it is a play space.
I didn’t see it with music playing, and I was there at a quiet time of day.