Tag Archives: Paul Blizzard

Save Strata!

Melbourne University has a fine tradition of acquiring, for very little cost, sculptures that are surplus to the requirements of Melbourne’s business world. Many architectural sculptures from the 19th Century “marvellous Melbourne” found new homes at Melbourne University. The demolition of old commercial buildings and the removal of their sculptures has added to the university’s collection. Urban Melbourne has a page about sculptures that have moved generally due to demolitions.

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Chris Booth, Strata, 2001

This tradition continues today with the university acquiring the sculptures in the AXA Plaza in Little Collins Street. Several sculptures will be displaced by construction including the works of Peter and Paul Blizzard and, New Zealand sculptor, Chris Booth’s massive stone assembly (400cm x 1000cm x 35cm), Strata, 2001.

Booth is known internationally and has major commissions in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Strata is typical of Booth’s work with stone. The stones are bound together with stainless steel cable to create the curved sculptural form. The sculpture is tied to the land for on the Castlemaine slate there are petroglyph by aboriginal artist, Fiona Clarke.

The problem is that Melbourne University has agreed to take Strata but not pay for it to be reassembled by the artist. Chris Booth describes this as “an act of vandalism” for it  is no better than the complete destruction of the sculpture. For without reassembly Strata is nothing more than a pile of rocks. It doesn’t come with pages of interactions and an Allen key from Ikea; not that would help, it needs the artist to reassemble it.

Urgent action is required as the dismantling of the sculpture is due to start in a week. Chris Booth is requesting that the Melbourne University reconsider their decision. It is all very well for Melbourne University to accept Paul Blizzard’s Fossil Stones because it can easily moved and plopped in a new location. However, as Booth points out, “as the University of Melbourne has accepted these three works into its keeping it has a legal and moral duty to protect them for posterity.”

The Moral Rights provisions in the Copyright Act, under section 195AT, states that the owner of a moveable artistic work is liable to the artist if they destroy the artistic work without first giving the artist opportunity to remove it.

For more about this issue see my earlier post: Redevelopments and Public Sculpture.

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The forecourt on Lt. Collins Street


Redevelopments and Public Sculptures

There is constant redevelopment in the CBD, buildings are being torn down and new buildings built, but two redevelopments have caught my attention because of the public sculptures caught up in these developments. Although these sculptures are public, in that they are on premises open to the public, they are privately owned. These are the redevelopment at the 360 Collins Street and 447 Collins Street.

The forecourt on Lt. Collins Street

The forecourt on Lt. Collins Street

My interest in 360 Collins Street is focused on the forecourt area on Little Collins Street where there are several sculptures by Peter Blizzard’s Shrine to the Ancient River, Paul Blizzard’s Fossil Stones and Chris Booth’s Strata. See my blog post.  In 2011 there was a proposal approved for 15-storey development in the forecourt area whereas the present 2015 proposal retains, refurbishes and redevelops part of the forecourt area. For more on the development see Urban Melbourne.

Michael Mezaros, John Pascoe Fawkner, 1978

Michael Mezaros, John Pascoe Fawkner, 1978

Ironically it was a dislodged slab of its marble facade in 2012  that spelt the end for the National Mutual building at 447 Collins Street designed by architects Godfrey, Spowers, Hughes, Mewton & Lobb in 1965. It’s façade of marble slabs was its one notable architectural feature, a move away from the curtain wall of earlier modernism. 447 Collins Street is now vacant and approved for demolition. In the forecourt of 447 Collins Street are the statues of John Batman by Stanley Hammond and John Pascoe Fawkner by Michael Mezaros, see my blog post.

What will happen to the sculptures? The Moral Rights provisions in the Copyright Act in 2000, under section 195AT, the owner of a moveable artistic work is liable to the artist if they destroy the artistic work without first giving the artist opportunity to remove it. The artist or their heirs, as two of the sculptors are now deceased, have the right to be informed about the removal, storage or subsequent reinstallation.

Percival Ball architectural ornaments now the entrance to the carpark at Melbourne Uni

Percival Ball architectural ornaments now the entrance to the carpark at Melbourne Uni

In the past Melbourne University was eager to provide new homes to sculptures dislodged from their original locations in the city, see my blog post. None of the sculptures at either 360 Collins Street or 447 Collins Street are site specific so it should not proved difficult to find a new home for them, if they are not returned to refurbished forecourts at their present locations.


Corporate Sculpture in the CBD

Most of the contemporary and modern sculpture in Melbourne’s CBD is not public sculpture it is owned by the corporation that owns the building. The sculptures out the front office buildings are often very high quality by notable artists. Modern architecture needs sculpture in forecourts and foyers to humanize the austere geometry. So while the City of Melbourne was avoiding installing public sculpture for most of the 20th century the business sector was not. These sculptures don’t attract much attention. They are ignored (in a way that public sculpture is not), there are no public controversies over them because they were not paid for public money even though they are on public show.

Tom Bass, Chidren’s Tree, bronze

In front of the CML Building on Elizabeth St. is “Children’s Tree” 1963, a bronze sculpture by Tom Bass. The plinth of this statue has been designed as public seating and is very popular. This whimsical sculpture has a boy and girl playing around stylized tree with an owl, a subtle allegory of wisdom through play. It is part of an era when conservative Melbourne avoided abstract art but its whimsical style is again in fashion.

Andrew Rogers, Rhythms of the Metropolis, bronze

At the front of 200 Queen Street is a large bronze sculpture by Andrew Rogers “Rhythms of the Metropolis” 1996, a very futurist title and sculpture. The rhythmic energy of the city was celebrated by futurism. This sculpture is not representative of Roger’s style. Andrew Rogers is now internationally known for his very large geo-glyph land art around the world.

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Chris Booth Strata on Little Collins St.

There is a small collection of contemporary sculptures in the courtyard of 360 Collins Street that faces Lt. Collins St. It is worth a look for the variety of styles and techniques represented in the small collection. There is no information about these sculptures in the courtyard; hopefully someone will fill me in. There are sculptures  by Paul Blizzard, his father the late Peter Blizzard and New Zealand sculptor Chris Booth.  The tall sculpture is Peter Blizzard’s Shrine to The Ancient River, 2000.

I have been looking more closely at Paul Blizzard’s familiar bronze fossils set in stone. They frequently include an anachronistic inconsistency; there is the bicycle tire print across the snake skeleton and a small padlock with a bird skeleton. These anachronisms and other inconsistencies, such as mounting the bronze ‘fossils’ in volcanic igneous rather than a fossil bearing sedimentary rock, are part of the charm of the work. Paul Blizzard added artistic details to the rocks that he wished were there, even though that would be impossible.

Paul Blizzard, Fossil Stone detail, bronze

And this is just a few of the sculptures out the front of buildings in the CBD – I would be interested in exploring corporate art collections further if I could get further access and information.


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