Sydney unveiled an impressive art project for the CBD today – a 50m tall white sculpture of twisting steel called Cloud Arch, that will stand in the middle of the CBD, beside Town Hall.
Bold. Draws your eye up to the sky, one of Sydney’s best features, too widely obstructed from view by the ghastly awnings over seemingly every shopfront in the city.
But there were two other sculptures announced today, too, and one of them is a shocker.
It’s an oversized milk crate for Belmore Park, which most will know as “that park opposite Central Station where you see the massive bus queues”.
Milk crates are litter. You’ll sometimes see them strewn on the street in trendy areas because hipster cafes use them as seats. They do this while charging $5 for a chai latte, complaining about oppressive landlords and their profit-seeking rental charges that prevent the buying of actual furniture.
The 13.7m milk crate is called Pavilion, and it’s by Egyptian-born artist Hany Armanious, who I’m sure is very talented and a nice person, and artistically, you can see the merit in the concept. It’s intended as a public gathering space, and milk crates are what we sit on when we gather in parks for Occupy rallies, war protests or cake days for school fundraisers.
It’s more than that though. It’s the concept of taking an ordinary, workaday object, upscaling it and charging $1m for it that shows a complete lack of vision on Sydney’s behalf. It’s a tired idea that doesn’t align with the energy, creativity and vision that Sydney needs to project to the world.
Besides, milk crates aren’t going to be around for that much longer – there are kids being born now who won’t understand them, much less sit on them at a rally protesting against the government by Google or whatever the cause du jour will be for bored 20-year-olds at that time. Pavilion by that time will look like an industrial relic, a bit like old gasworks. Sydney’s just not that nostalgic a place.
Public art is a fantastic way to rejuvenate a city, when it’s chosen and installed judiciously. Sticking a giant milk crate in the middle of a park might pass muster now (just), but in 20 years’ time, it will have lost its relevance and we’ll be wondering what to do with it. Like we do with all the other milk crates at the end of a day.
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