Tag Archives: Telstra

Sculptures in Storage

The maquettes for familiar public sculptures were on a couple of shelves, there were racks of paintings and even a couple of street art pieces (recent acquisitions from the Andy Mac collection auction) in the storage at the City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection. I was looking around on a tour with Melbourne Open House 2012 – the only opportunity that a member of the public has to see this archive of the city’s history.

Maquettes for Fiona Clarke and Ken McKean’s Eel Trap and Pamela Irving’s Larry Latrobe

“Where are the sculptures?” I asked at the end of the tour. I had expected to see a couple of old marble sculpture in bad repair, as Melbourne’s gardens were reportedly full of copies of classical sculpture.

“We don’t have any in storage.”

Further interrogation followed as I had read a report in the Melbourne Weekly Times about the two busts of Dante and Marconi that are in storage. They are going to the new Italian Culture Museum. There were bits of another sculpture but apart from that there was nothing in storage, it was all out on public display.

The sculptures that are no longer visible in the city are owned and stored by organizations other than the City of Melbourne. I assume that Docklands has a separate storage where they are keeping the recently dismantled “Shoal Fly By” by Melbourne-based architect/artist partnership, Cat Macleod and Michael Bellemo that was located on
Harbour Esplanade. The dock footing where the sculpture stood was unsafe and the sculpture was removed earlier this year.

Michael Meszaros sculpture “Distant Conversations” 1992 (also known as “the Telstra figures”) is no longer in the Telstra building. “In October 2009, Telstra decided after 17 years they were going to dismantle Michael Meszaros’ ‘Distant Conversations’ in order to install a Telstra shop. Needless to say the artist was distraught. Mr Meszaros sort legal advise and with the help of lawyer Dr. Mark Williams was able to save his work under the recognition of artists’ moral rights legislation. After negotiating with Telstra for a reasonable outcome Mr Meszaros was eventually able to secure a buyer for the artwork who agreed to remove, store and eventually relocate the work which is valued at over $1million.” (Public Art Around the World)

What ever happened to the de Kooning sculpture that used to stand in front of the Art Centre? What sculptures in Melbourne do you remember that aren’t there any more?



Russell Street Sculptures

On awkward location of the wide median strip in the middle of Russell St., between Bourke St. and Lt. Collins St., there are two mysterious sculptures. This wide median strip was originally the location of Melbourne’s first underground toilet (and first public toilet for women) opened 1902 and decommissioned in 1994. The median strip also incorporates the ventilation point for the decommissioned Telstra tunnels that run beneath Melbourne’s CBD.

The sculptures are Chris Reynolds, “A History apparatus – Vessel Craft & Beacon”, 1993 (installed 1994-5) a 24m. long series of aluminum and fiberglass forms, part of which is attached to some steel rails. And Maurie Hughes, “Ceremony and Vehicle for Conveying Spirit”, 1996, made from silicon, bronze, galvanized and mild steel. The two sculptures are separated by centre of the road car parking and some plane trees; so although Maurie Hughes’s sculpture was intended to refer to Reynolds’ sculpture the two do not appear connected. Both of the sculptures are composed of several parts as well as long titles. And they both have a strange functional appearance implied by their liner design along the median strip.

One reason for these odd sculptures can be explained in the process of commissioning the sculptures. Chris Reynolds “A History apparatus” was part of the National Metal Industry Sculpture Project, a sculpture-in-residency program. It was a collaborative effort between the artist and the Australian Metal Workers Union, Aerospace Technology of Australia and the City of Melbourne. Maurie Hughes’ sculpture was linked to the redevelopment of Telstra’s former Russell Street exchange and funded by Telstra and the City of Melbourne’s Urban & Public Art Program. It was commissioned with a brief to “incorporate the functional and visually meaningful elements of the vent”; the vent is part of a decommissioned Telstra tunnel.

Maurie Hughes, "Ceremony and Vehicle for Conveying Spirit", 1996

Maurie Hughes’s “Ceremony and Vehicle for Conveying Spirit” has three elements: totem pillars, the chimney and a gate each with their own plinth. The wheels on the chimney and the smaller wheels on the base of the gate suggest movement but this sculpture is going nowhere. The chimney flue form is presumably above the old Telstra tunnel’s vent.

Chris Reynolds, “A History apparatus - Vessel Craft & Beacon”, 1993

Chris Reynolds’s “A History apparatus – Vessel Craft & Beacon” feels disappointing as a sculpture; given the whole apparatus with the rails and vessels, you expect it to do more. The sculpture leaves me with a sense of disappointment and failure.

I have not been able to find anything more about these two artists. Like other artists who received commissions for public sculptures from the City of Melbourne their careers have not been notable.

The sculptures in the middle of Russell St. do not attract much close examination; their eccentric meanings appear impenetrable. Looking awkward and out of place they fail to give a sense of place, or excite the imagination. The problems with these sculpture stem from their location and commission before the two artists even started work.

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