The Burke and Wills Monument 1865 – 2015

Today is 150th Anniversary of the Burke and Wills Monument and both Melbourne and the monument have changed in the 150 years. Just after 4pm on 21 April 1865 the sculpture was unveiled in the middle of the Collins and Russell Streets intersection. The monument has been four different locations and these different locations show the history of Melbourne’s transportation with the introduction of trams, the city loop trains and the pedestrianised zone of the city square.

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument, 1865

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument

Proudly Australian the monument was made from local materials; the bronze from tin mined in Adelaide and copper from Beechworth, and the imposing plinth is of Harcourt granite. The sculpture was cast in Charles Summers’s workshop in the east end of Collins Street, now the location of Burlington Chambers. The casting of the sculpture before an invited audience was a bit of a fraud. Summers claimed that the figures were cast in one piece, an impossible accomplishment and one that the sculpture’s restoration has revealed to be false. Pouring hot metal is a spectacular event but Summers felt the need to lie about how successful it went.

For a nineteenth century artist Summers worked hard at publicity. He was a celebrity as far as the Argos newspaper and Melbourne’s elite were concerned but what ever happened to its sculptor Charles Summers?

Researching my book, Sculptures of Melbourne, I couldn’t help feeling that Summers was a man who, in part, believed his own publicity. I think that really believed that he was Melbourne’s Michelangelo but he was a bit of a fraud and a show off. After basking in the glory of his monument Summers moved to Rome, after all if was Michelangelo then he belonged in Rome. In Rome he established a factory for producing sculptures that his son, also a sculptor took over after his death. Summers never returned to Melbourne but his son did and there are Victorian neo-classical marbles by the Summers factory in both the Bendigo and Geelong art galleries.

The monument is now an icon of Melbourne and Australian history, a preserved historic relic, the first work of public art to be registered by the National Trust. However, its anniversary has not been officially recognised. Along with attitudes to heroic deaths, ideas about public art have changed radically and I doubt that there are now many Australian parents who would follow Governor Darling’s prediction for the monument at its unveiling. “For, oft as it shall be told, and oft-times it will be told upon this very spot, Australian parents, pointing to that commanding figure, shall bid their young and aspiring sons to hold in admiration the ardent and energetic spirit, the bold self-reliance, and the many chivalrous qualities which combined to constitute the manly nature of O’Hara Burke.”

For more about the history of this and other public sculptures in Melbourne (and some better photographs) read my book, Sculptures of Melbourne.

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument, 1865, panel Dig tree

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument, 1865, panel Dig tree


Hot Market Dealers

Street art was very hot in 2011, and in the hot market for street art someone was going to do something dodgy. It was a hot market because everyone knew that Banksy’s works were worth thousands and everyone expected that the prices would keep rising. People were hot to buy and didn’t have the time to do their research. In a hot art market need, speed and greed allow attribution to slip. It is also a hot time for dodgy dealers.

Amos Aikman reports in The Australian, “No-names raised eyebrows on the street” (April 14, 2015) that Sydney-based dealer Avdo Tabakovic was manufacturing street art for auction.

Melbourne-based art dealer Paul Auckett was working with Tabakovic and Lawsons Auctioneers’ then art specialist and sale organiser Giovanna Fragomeli on the 2011 auction. It was promoted as “the first major street art sale”, everyone has to be ‘first’ with street art. It is another sign of a very hot market where being ‘first’ is best.

Auckett told The Australian that “(Tabakovic) was mass producing pictures but masquerading them as by genuine street artists. That was pretty annoying for the artists I invited to consign work. The implication and the innuendo was that all the artists had worked their way up from the bottom.”

The names E-vader and Roy Elder, artists that Tabakovic was selling at the auction, are unknown to street artists. Amos Aikman reports that Roy Eder, an allegedly US based artist has a website that “was registered to Avdo Tabakovic in February 2011 for two years, at an address also used by Tabakovic in company records.” Not that this is criminal but it is dodgy and it is the Mr Brainwash model of producing street art.

Many people in Melbourne’s street art scene could smell this dodgy auction and had no interest. Factor at Invurt was approached for the auction and kept their email:

“My name is Giovanna Fragomeli and I look after the media and sponsorship department of Arthouse Auctions. I really would like the opportunity to discuss being an active sponsor of your blog as I feel it is a fantastic avenue for information in the contemporary and Street Art genres.”

“Arthouse Auctions is the only auction house in Australia that holds stand alone Contemporary and Street art Auctions and exhibitions and our next event is Melbourne next Sunday 3rd July.”

Factor explains what happens next. “They offered me a heap of “sponsorship cash” if I’d write a bunch of articles for them and plaster their name all over the site, basically trying to buy legitimacy. Needless to say I was suss straight out and avoided then like the plague. When I went to the auction and saw that e-vader shit I had to laugh.”

Fragomeli and Tabakovic run Art House Auctions. “Why pay gallery prices when you can buy at auction?” asks Art House Auctions on its website.

If a deal sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t. Why would the price of art decline after its initial sale? Are dissatisfied customers trying to get rid of bad art and take loss on their purchase? If this is the case then the art is unlikely to be a good investment. The best price that you are likely ever going to pay for a work of art, barring lucky finds in garage sales and rubbish dumps, is to buy from the artist or the gallery that represents them.

Art dealers are the used car dealers of the art world, sure there are some honest reputable ones but there are also the Arthur Daleys. And Fragomeli and Tabakovic are still at it. In January 03, 2015 Amos Aikman reported on Fragomeli and Tabakovic faking aboriginal art from the APY Lands painters. In 2013 the ABC reported on other of Fragomeli and Tabakovic dodgy dealings.


Bendigo’s Old Sculptures

Late Victorian and Edwardian marble and bronze sculptures, statues and busts are quaint relics of the central Victoria gold rush in the centre of City of Greater Bendigo. The highlights of this collection are works by some of the leading sculptors in Australia: James White and Charles Douglas Richardson. There are also works by some less well known sculptors, R.G. Summers and John Walker that tell us as much about the history of that time as the works of more famous sculptors.

Charles Douglas Richardson, The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06

Charles Douglas Richardson, The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06

On the Corner of Bridge St and Pall Mall is Charles Douglas Richardson’s The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06, with three bronze base relief panels around the base showing the history of mining in Bendigo.

James White, Memorial to George Lansell

James White, George Lansell Memorial, 1908

The twice life sized marble memorial to Queen Victoria, a bronze memorial to George Lansell, The Quartz King and the bust Memorial to Ernst Mueller are all by James White. White’s The Quartz King was installed in 1908 and The Bendigo Advertiser has a detailed story about this memorial to George Lansell. James White received several commissions for memorials to Queen Victoria, including the memorial in Melbourne’s Victoria Gardens. Bendigo’s memorial to Queen Victoria unveiled in Rosalind Park on Tuesday 14th April, 1903.

James White, Queen Victoria Memorial, 1903

James White, Queen Victoria Memorial, 1903

Ola Cohn wrote: “I recall the erection of a monument in Bendigo to the great monarch Queen Victoria some time after her death in 1901, but I was unmoved by it. Her statue stood on a green plot in the middle of the town  looking most austere and unapproachable, and as cold as the stone in which she was carved. I studied it in my young days, but never got a spark of interest in its sculptural quality, nor did I appreciate it as a work of art.” A Way With The Fairies – The Lost Story of Sculptor Ola Cohn edited by Barbara Lemon (R W Stugnell, 2014, Melbourne p.28)

Ola Cohn also recalled in her autobiography meeting John Walker as a sculpture student at the Bendigo School of Mines and that he had later received the commission for the Boer War Memorial although she neglects to mention its location. (Stugnell, p.24)

John Walker, Sculptor

John Walker worked as a sculptor in both Bendigo and West Brunswick before turning to chicken farming in the Bendigo suburb of White Hills. John Walker born in Bendigo and first studied sculpture at the Bendigo School of Art. Walker then went to England to study at the Royal College of Art London, and in Paris at the Collarossi and Julian Academies. [Memorial to Sir John Quick. (1934, June 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10945852 ]

John Walker’s bronze bust Memorial to Sir John Quick, 1934 in Rosalind Park was cast by E. J. Gregory of Whitby Street, West Brunswick. Walker’s bronze statue of Captain Cook on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church.

“A statue of Captain Cook was unveiled by the mayor (Councillor J Semmens) in St Paul’s Church grounds on Wednesday. Under the will of the late Mr John Emery, the statue was bequeathed to St Paul’s vestry. It was executed by Mr. John Walker, the Bendigo sculptor, at a cost of £530.” [(1906, November 29) The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), p. 8. Retrieved December 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9671945 ]

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A couple of neo-classical statues stand in a small garden with a conservatory on the corner of Bull Street and Pall Mall, the McIvor Highway (the A300), that runs through the middle of Bendigo. There is a hunting scene, a poorly assembled bronze copy from the Uffizi Gallery, the various parts can be seen cracking white paint and a marble figure by the little known Australian sculptor, R. George Summers (no relation to the more famous Melbourne sculptor, Charles Summers).

R. George Summers, Canova’s Venus, 1901

R. George Summers, Canova’s Venus, 1901

This neo-classical white marble female nude, referred to as ‘Canova’s Venus’, as it is a copy of Antonio Canova’s sculpture. It is actually the figure of Pandora, notice the box at her feet, the one that Zeus put all the evils in the world in. It is the work of R. G. Summers and was installed November 1901. R. George Summers of Carlton was also the sculptor responsible for the figure of the soldier Brunswick’s Boer War Memorial. He is also known to have inspected pink marble in Benambra, north of Omeo in East Gippsland, for its commercial potential.

These sculptures, this civic bling from another era have now become historic relics.


Body of Work

When I arrived at Dark Horse Experiment Casey Jenkins, dressed in her metallic jumpsuit and high leather boots, was talking to a friend and having a smoke out the front of the gallery. It was at the end of her lunch break and she soon returned to start her work in the gallery.

Casey Jenkins, Body of Work

Casey Jenkins’s Body of Work is a three week durational, community-engagement performance artwork. Jenkins really works the idea of ‘work’ and ‘body’ and to some extent it worked.

Work is an important subject for a contemporary artist to examine; it defines us and in some cases, shapes our bodies. There are so many issues about work, from identity and gender to comparative rates of pay, that it was hard to find a focus in Jenkins, Body of Work.

Jenkins was setting different pay rates on days, this ranged from a negative fine of $1,200 (the amount street artist, HaHa was fined for about an hours work) to $1,586,852 p/h (the amount Mark Zuckerberg accrues per hour). These extreme differences did give Jenkins a couple of days off in the three weeks.

The difference between this work and reality tv shows, like World’s Toughest Jobs, is the gallery and the employers.

The gallery for Jenkins this was more of an installation, the antique punch clock, typewriter, the workbench, the bed. Sometimes she was hooked up to microphones to amplify her heart beat as she worked and the labour was screened live during working hours via the CCTV cameras. In someways the windowless gallery space appeared as a dystopian work environment with objects arranged for display rather than function.

The choice of jobs for Jenkins was more of an interaction with the employer. It required the engagement with people, provoking the public to invent short jobs that required no skills and could be done in the gallery space. In this respect both the jobs and the employers were less real than on a reality tv show. The poverty of the public imagination explains much of Jenkins work: sex acts, body painting and erotic polaroid photographs to compile tax receipts. Jenkins said many of these employee relationships were idealised, representing how the participant would like their boss to behave.

I wonder what would have happened if nobody had employed her? Is there much use for unskilled labour these days? I left the gallery as Jenkins got back to her ‘work’ updating someone’s Twitter account.

Jenkins has been a lot of news articles about the piece in The Guardian and The Melbourne Broadsheet. Jenkins is not a stranger to publicity the SBS2 The Feed’s report ‘Vaginal Knitting’ on her earlier work Casting Off My Womb has be viewed on YouTube 6,481,137+ times.

I have a growing interest in tenacious, hard-working performance artists. I have been seeing a lot of performance artists work hard recently from Amy-Jo Jory breaking rocks in Listening to Stones II and Matto Lucas working out in Endomorph, with dreams of becoming a Mesomorph. Maybe this is sympathy, because of they are amongst the losers in the art world along with art critics. Probably more due to being particularly impressed by local performance artworks by Stuart Ringholt, Michael Meneghetti, Peter Burke and others further away, like Tania Bruguera.


Hearing Disconnections

Academic and multimedia artist, Dr Trish Adams wanted to share her own experience of hearing loss in art. Disconnections are two works incorporating video and audio elements. She warned the viewers/listeners that this might not be a pleasant experience and the intent was to create a degree of anxiety and discomfort.

Trish Adams, Inaudible City

Trish Adams, Inaudible City

In the first video, Inaudible City is a large-scale projection of video sequences with four audio options with four sets of headphones. Each of the headphones simulated a type of hearing loss; loss of low and high frequencies, loss of both and tinnitus. On the video there are scenes from St. Kilda Road and the Yarra River; the sound focuses on the highlighted visuals, the familiar sound of a tram going past or a banner flapping in the wind. Now I would recognise the sound of a tram under any conditions but other sounds, like the banners or the river, lost a much of their individual character and just became noise.

The second video, Fractured_Message, is a slice of life piece of a young man asking for directions to the bus stop. It is a familiar scenario, even if you can hear you might have experienced something similar when you don’t speak the language. The viewer placed in front of the portrait-style video cannot easily understand the attempt at communication due to an inaudible and slightly distorted soundtrack. When I concentrated I could understand him.

I wanted to experience Disconnections because it was away from the usual art gallery scene on a Thursday night at the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre in Carlton. And, because I am personally interested in what is it like to have a hearing disability? Not that I have a hearing disability, apart from occasional  This is remarkable after all the years of playing in bands, going to gigs and raves, mind you I was wearing ear protection most of the time. However, my wife has a hearing disability and after the second work I understood what she means when she tells me that she gets tired of concentrating on listening to people.

It is hard to imagine how your life might change with diminished hearing. Yes, sure you would get hearing aids but that wouldn’t be everything, how would it impact on social interactions? There would be changes in your social interactions, perhaps also loss of confidence. Remember to wear ear protection.


My Book Launch & Other Events

Rita Dimasi, the publicist at the publisher, Melbourne Books, has done an amazing job. The whole team at Melbourne Books has done an amazing job in the production of my book, Sculptures of Melbourne. It is so nice to actually hold the book. It feels substantial but not cumbersome. It is almost overwhelming for a first time author.

Sculptures of Melbourne

There will now be two book launches one on Friday 1 May at 6pm at Gallery One Three and one on Sunday noon in the great hall at the NGV International. For more information go to my events page. You can also pre-order my book at my new online shop (but I must warn you that it only takes PayPal payments).

Candy Stevens, “Landscape Gardeners”, 2011

Candy Stevens, “Landscape Gardeners”, 2011

Publicity for my book is now occupying a lot of my time and that will continue for the next month or more. A few bloggers have been kind enough to mention my book on Art and Architecture, thanks Hels, and on Public Art Research, thanks Ruth.

I feel that I now I will be my fate to write about public art until I die. It is not a bad fate, although I know that it is likely that I will be phoned by the media to comment on every public sculpture controversy. What to more write about now about public sculpture?A friend asked me if I would now turn my attention to public fountains and other water features. I told them that mentioned a few fountains in my book and that I have already written a blog post about drinking fountains, mosaics and public seating.

I could write about other public sculptures in other cities but that seems to be largely repeating the same history, as would writing about other mediums of public art. If you include the street art mosaics by Space Invader and others following his example, then Melbourne’s mosaics form a similar history to my history of public sculpture.

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Should I be investigating what ever happened to Arthur Boyd’s nine metre high glazed terracotta sculpture, Totem Pole 1955 at the Olympic Pool, Melbourne? Or what happened to the wall-mounted sculpture by Norma Redpath that was once in the foyer of BP House at 1-29 Albert Road, Melbourne? Or write click bait like the ten most something sculptures in Melbourne? Actually I have a few more posts on public sculpture already prepared. Do you know which sculpture in Melbourne is about to have its 150th anniversary later this month?


Street Art Sculptures 6

Discarded

                              Discarded

Walking up Hosier Lane on probably the last warm day of the year, enjoying the location, admiring the callipygian women in their shorts and watching the people as much as the walls. A busker is playing a guitar; I haven’t seen that many buskers in Hosier Lane even though there always lots of people there.

A man drives his Harley Davidson up steep incline of the bluestone lane to photograph his hog in front of one of the walls. A seriously good looking motorcycle but not a serious photographer using his cell phone. It is always interesting to see how different people use this laneway in Melbourne, a reminder that there are many ways of living life.

unknown, Back in My Day, 2015

       unknown, Back in My Day, 2015

I also have an objective in Hosier Lane besides people watching. I am on a mission to collect more photographs of street art sculptures. There is a lot of it about, enough for another blog post. Not only because Will Coles has endowed Melbourne with many new works in a recent visit from his home in Sydney but because there are more street artists doing three dimensional work.

Fee-Rye, monster, 2014

                    Fee-Rye, monster, 2014

unknown, Mr Flip Flop, 2015

         unknown, Mr Flip Flop, 2015

I know about Discarded but I still don’t know about all the new artists, like the Flip Flop artist. Who is doing these great spray cans?

unknown, Lunar Park Can, 2015

unknown, Lunar Park Can, 2015

Will Coles has a lot of new work around Melbourne. His cast designer purse with the word ‘Fake’ and the designer handbag with the word ‘Consume’ in Hosier Lane are a big hit with the anti-fashionistas. His discarded shoe appears forgotten.

Will Coles, Fake, 2015

                   Will Coles, Fake, 2015

Will Coles, Consume, 2015

         Will Coles, Consume, 2015

Will Coles, Forgot'n, 2015

             Will Coles, Forgot’n, 2015

I want to keep up with recent street art sculpture partially what I’ve written in the final chapter of my book, Melbourne’s Sculpture; that street art sculptures are the most recent type of public sculpture. This should not be confused with being the ultimate type of public sculpture, street art sculptures are not about to replace the established types of public sculpture. I also admire the tenacity and ingenuity of anyone who makes a durable sculpture and install it in the street with or without permission.

For more street art sculpture:

Street Art Sculpture 5

10 Great Street Installation 2014

Street Art Sculpture III 2012

More Street Art Sculpture 2010

Street Art Sculpture 2009


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