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.
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.