The cost of the massive Sydney steel sculpture dubbed 'the Big Tapeworm' has exploded to $22 million, bringing the project to a halt

An impression of Cloud Arch in Sydney. Source: supplied

It was first touted four years ago as a tourism attraction to rival Chicago’s Cloud Gate and St Louis’ Gateway Arch, but the City of Sydney’s plan to build a 58-metre high, ribbon-like steel sculpture by Japanese artist Junya Ishigami is in serious doubt as the cost doubled yet again to around six times the original cost due to problems with George Street light rail project.

The project now looks set to be killed off, with much of the blame being apportioned to the light rail’s Spanish builder, Acciona.

The council looks set to delay tenders for the sculpture when it meets next week after the cost blew out again to $22 million, nearly double the $11.3 million estimate in August last year following “technical challenges” that saw the work, titled “Cloud Arch”, increased in size and scope.

When the cost was $11.3 million, the vote was 6-4 to proceed with Liberal councillor Christine Forster, dubbing it the “Big Tapeworm”.

Cloud Arch was meant be in place by 2019. The light rail, already over budget and suffering from extensive delays, is not due to be completed until 2020.

A spokesperson for the City of Sydney told Business Insider several factors outside the council’s control added to the costs, including the light rail delays, while Acciona, which is already in a legal fight with the NSW government over money, caused additional problems.

“A significant challenge has been that the City has been denied access to the site by Acciona for the installation of the footings required to make this major public artwork happen. This is despite the fact that there was an obligation to allow the City access,” they said.

The council keep redesigning to footings in an attempt appease them but “Acciona’s actions have ultimately blocked all solutions”.

The multiple redesigns delayed the project and increased costs to the point where it no longer appears viable amid the ongoing risks in dealing with the light rail project..

“Regrettably due to the many factors that are out of the City’s control, the City does not believe the cost of Cloud Arch represents the best return for public funds at this time,” the council spokesperson said.

“The City now believes the best outcome is to defer this project for Council to look at as part of the Town Hall Square project when the Light Rail project will be completed and financial conditions are more favourable.”

The revised version of Cloud Arch released last year was to use 140 tonnes of steel – 83 tonnes more than the original. It was made eight metres higher and twice as wide.

When the project was first announced in 2014, it was priced at $3.5 million. I was one of three major artworks – chosen from 700 entries – the city was commissioning for $7.8 million. Since then, only British artist Tracey Emin’s 60 bronze bird sculptures along Bridge, Grosvenor and Kent streets have come to fruition a cost of $2.1 million.

A 13.7 metre-high oversized milk crate by Egyptian-born Sydney artist Hany Armanious, costing $2.5 million, was subsequently scrapped last year due to the Cloud Arch cost blowout.

The council has already spent $2.25 million in preparatory work on Cloud Arch including for redesigns, artist fees and other development costs.

In that respect the work is reminiscent of the legendary 1994 work K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.

If Lord Mayor Clover Moore is looking for a more affordable work to replace Cloud Arch, she might like to consider the 2011 conceptual work by Praxis in collaboration with actor James Franco, titled “Fresh Air”.

Bought by Aimee Davidson for $10,000 as part of a Kickstarter campaign for the Museum of Non-Visible Art, she subsequently had her money refunded after the non-visible work failed to arrive.

Cloud Arch looking east with the QVB on the left. Source: supplied

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