Tag Archives: Robert Kippel

Four Adelaide Sculptures

Considering two sculptures at the Adelaide Station Environs and two in Rundle Mall. The former are two prominent local late-modernist sculptors; large sculptures focused on formal qualities. The latter are contemporary sculptures focused on facilitating interactions.

Robert Kipple’s Bronze Sculpture Number 714 1968 has a reflexive quality like all of Kipple’s mature sculptures; its subject refers to its own creation. An assemblage of wooden parts used for casting steel machine parts cast as bronze sculptures. The machine aesthetic of Dada and Surrealism played out a casual conglomeration.

There is a balance of tones, curves and straight lines in Akio Makigawa’s Elements and Being 1989. It is one of his largest sculptural groups with five separate elements: a column with a pillow on top, a square pavilion with a round roof, a curved form and two obelisks topped with a flame and a cloud. Lyrical, but its black and white stone appears cold and unapproachable.

Makigawa’s time in Australia reminds me of the end of the White Australia Policy (before that, Australia was an apartheid state like South Africa and now Israel). Makigawa was only allowed to move to Australia because the policy was officially over. For more on Makigawa, see my earlier post

People passing by barely glance at these sculptures. The Makigawa looks like it is part of the entrance to the Intercontinental Hotel. Both the Kipple and Makigawa sculptures project the statement that this is art, so do not touch.

Compare this to sculptures of the animals in the Rundle Mall: the four pigs and the pigeon. A bronze pig is going for bronze rubbish atop an actual rubbish bin. It is not high art, it doesn’t mean much, but it does a lot of work in the mall. A Day Out 1999 is the work of Sydney-based sculptor Marguerite Derricourt.

These are much-loved pigs; their noses and bodies polished by the hands of many people. Sat on by children and a few adults. The pigs were named by members of the public in 1999. Horatio, Truffles, Oliver, Augusta; plaques record the pigs’ names and the names of the namers. 

A boy runs up and taps the chest of the stainless steel and brass Pigeon before running back to rejoin his family; his younger sister follows suit. This is not some feral pigeon; the ring on its leg indicates it is a racing pigeon or a pet. The angular metal pigeon, geometric rather than realist, is a recent addition from 2020. It is the first public sculpture of Paul Sloan, not the American actor, director and screenwriter, but the Adelaide-based artist.

These are more than selfie-props; they serve as waymarkers, physical elements of the mall outside the commercial. Unlike Kipple and Makigawa, neither Derricourt nor Sloan are well known. The aesthetic difference between these four sculptures is reflected in a debate in the Adelaide City Council about replacing words in their public sculpture commissions from “cheeky” and “subversive” to “beautiful”. If they want “beautiful” they should quadruple their budget because it is that much rarer.

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Sydney Public Sculpture

“A city is the greatest work of art possible” Lloyd Rees

What I did on my summer holiday. Did you ever write that for school?

I went for a holiday in Sydney. I wanted to have a holiday and get away from my work but when your work involves public art, even walking around the block can involve looking at a sculpture or street art. I did take a few photographs of some sculptures in Sydney.

I saw sculptures that I like; I loved the golden tree in Chinatown, Golden Water Mouth by Lin Li. I saw some sculpture that horrified me like the bronze sculpture of Governor Macquarie with its very large feet.

I can’t help explaining the differences between lost wax and sand casting when looking at the Robert Kippel sculpture at Circular Key. The Jason Wing alleyway in Chinatown brought back memories of seeing an exhibition by him in 2009. My wife asked me if I was thinking of writing a book about Sydney’s public sculpture, after my Sculptures of Melbourne.

People keep telling me that Melbourne is somehow special in its relationship to public sculpture and I just don’t buy that intercity rivalry. Admittedly Sydney did not have the year long “Yellow Peril” stupidity but it was just a stupid overblown Melbourne City Council dispute after all and not the end of civilisation. Sydney was less in need of landmark sculptures having both major architectural and physical landmarks.

I ran into the sculptor, Lis Johnson in the Art Gallery of NSW shop who was up in Sydney studying marble carving. She thought that Sydney was becoming more like Melbourne with the street art in the laneways along with small coffeeshops and bars.

There are a lot more public sculptures in Sydney these days. There is a similar historical trajectory as I trace in my book. And I have done the research on some of the sculptors like Akio Makigawa already. The street sculptor, Will Coles lives and works in Sydney; I could add interview with him instead of the one with Junky Projects.

Pipe dreams aside I have no immediate plans to write the companion book to my Sculptures of Melbourne because I don’t live in Sydney. About half of what I have earned from writing the book has come from walking tours and talks. Anyway the City of Sydney has a good website about its public art with walking tours.


Flinders Lane

Melbourne’s CBD artistic centre of Flinders Lane is slowly being further gentrified. Galleries like Span and Upstairs Flinders Lane have closed, artist’s studios are closing, to make way for more inner city apartments and restaurants.

Flinders Lane has been slowly gentrified since its original incarnation as the garment district of Melbourne. Now there are fashion boutiques like Alphaville, designer furniture and jewellery boutiques. And there are plenty of bars and restaurants along Flinders Lane. The charm of Flinders Lane runs out as it crosses Elizabeth St. after that it is the boring business sector of Melbourne’s CBD.

Milton House – Flinders Lane, Melbourne

The mix of architectural styles along the lane range from the gothic revival of the cathedral, the eclectic style of Australian federation architecture, art noueveau and the international style of glass walled skyscrapers. Look up and see Melbourne’s only glass bottom swimming pool that extends a metre over the lane. There is also AC/DC Lane (formerly Corporation Lane) named after the rock band in 2004 and Melbourne’s only street sign with a lightening bolt through it.

Between 1945 and 1956 the fashion photographer Helmut Newton, was working from a small studio on the 5th floor of 353 Flinders Lane, “Pioneer House” which he rented for 5 pounds per month. The proximity to Melbourne’s rag trade was advantageous for Newton’s career.

Modern art came to Flinders Lane with Gallery A, established in 1959 by designer Clement Meadmore and furniture manufacture Max Hutchinson. It was a combination of a furniture store and art gallery; and it exhibited contemporary Australian modern artists, including Robert Kippel and John Olsen. Flinders Lane has been the location for many of Melbourne’s established commercial galleries, many specializing in Aboriginal art. There are also rental space and artist-run galleries and spaces in the buildings along Flinders Lane. There is plenty of exhibition space along Flinders Lane. The art at the Melbourne City Library foyer exhibition space has been generally disappointing this year. At the very top of the Flinders Lane there is Craft Victoria with information, a shop and exhibition space with excellent, avant-garde, craft exhibitions.

Mailbox 141 must be a difficult space to fill; the fifteen small glass fronted former wooden mailboxes in the small tiled foyer of 141 Flinders Lane do not make it easy for the artist. It might be the smallest art gallery in the world. However, it frequently has surprisingly good exhibitions.

Street art is featured just off Flinders Lane, on the famous little Hosier Lane (a street name from the area’s garment district days). With all of the street art Hosier Lane is now a popular location for wedding and advertising photographs, as well as, tourists and school groups who take more photographs.

Looking up Hosier Lane to Flinders Lane

The Nicholas Building on the corner of Swanston Walk and Flinders Lane is still a living cultural centre. The late, eccentric and artist Vali Meyers once had her studio on the 8th floor of the building. But the antique lifts still work and the upper floors are full of studios, art galleries (Pigment, Blindside and Stephen McLaughlan Gallery), clothes designers, the Victorian Writers Centre and Collected Works Bookshop (the best bookshop for poetry and literature in Melbourne).

The high point of Flinders Lane’s part of Melbourne cultural may have passed but there is still a lot of life it. If you are going to visit Flinders Lane I recommend getting off at Parliament Station and walking downhill towards Elizabeth Street, as it will be easier on your legs.


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