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The unveiling of three new major works of public art for the City of Sydney has caused a heated discussion about art, and Lord Mayor Clover Moore couldn’t be happier.
Public art is meant to spark debate and I think it’s terrific Sydney is talking about art.
During extensive consultation for Sustainable Sydney 2030, for Sydney Open and for our Cultural Policy, the public told us they wanted more public art.
The extension of the light rail network gives us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to re-imagine our city centre. The City is investing $220 million into the light rail project to widen footpaths, revitalise lane-ways, improve lighting, signage, drainage and landscaping, and for new street furniture, trees and public art.
These new artworks won’t come at the expense of other important work.
In the next ten years we’re investing more than $500 million to make sure the streets, footpaths, parks and lane-ways in the CBD are in excellent condition. This investment is part of a 10-year $1.9 billion capital works program across our entire local government area to improve roads, build new childcare centres, open new parks, pools and playgrounds, and much more.
Public artworks are an investment – in 1973 Gough Whitlam authorised the National Gallery to purchase Jackson Pollock‘s Blue Poles for $1.3 million. At the time it was considered an outrageous waste of money but it’s now worth around $100 million.
Tim Williams, from the Committee for Sydney, hit the nail on the head when he said, “When Sydney has its one millionth visitor as a result of these artworks, we’ll wonder why we ever questioned the project.”
To ensure Sydney has the highest quality public art, the City established the “Public Art Advisory Panel” – a group of highly-recognised specialists.
In 2013, Councillors unanimously approved the George Street Concept Design outlining principles to guide our plans for George Street, including public art and the City Centre Public Art Plan, which included the budget and timelines for these artworks.
The panel looked at an overwhelming 700 submissions sent from around the world, short-listed 10 artists and then unanimously chose the final three.
Now we are inviting the community to give us their feedback, which will be taken into account as the artists and the City work together to develop each concept. We will also submit DAs for each artwork, giving people a second chance to have their say.
As well as these three artworks, the City is creating seven unique pieces of public art acknowledging the living culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Sydney.
We have a strong track record delivering engaging public art that draws people into our city, attracts visitors and supports local businesses.
I have no doubt the three chosen by our eminent public art panel will also become iconic landmarks.