Contemporary public art in and around Hobart

Gift from the Earth, Keizo Ushio, donated 2001. Carved granite sculpture located in AJ White Park, Battery Point

With 19th century origins, Hobart is blessed with its fair share of weather beaten figurative bronzes set atop sandstone plinths. Generally found in well-clipped public parks and gardens, these statues tend to commemorate leaders, be they monarchs, governors, premiers or generals, or to wars and their victims.

Boer War memorial bronze on sandstone plinth, located on Hobart's Domain
Boer War memorial bronze on sandstone plinth, located on Hobart’s Domain

Additions to our public art during the 20th century reflected developments in art and stylistic forms, while still often being cast in bronze. The range of people and events commemorated similarly grew in breadth, with a particular focus on exploration and our island’s proximity to Antarctica.

The Bernachi Tribute, "Self Portrait", Louis and Joe, Stephen Walker 2002. Bronze sculpture, located between Victoria Dock and Macquarie Wharf, Sullivans Cove
The Bernachi Tribute, “Self Portrait”, Louis and Joe, Stephen Walker 2002. Bronze sculpture, located between Victoria Dock and Macquarie Wharf, Sullivans Cove
Heading South, Stephen Walker 1998. Bronze sculpture, located between Victoria Dock and Macquarie Wharf, Sullivans Cove
Heading South, Stephen Walker 1998. Bronze sculpture, located between Victoria Dock and Macquarie Wharf, Sullivans Cove
Bronze Sculpture by Stephen Walker, 1994,  located at 111 Macquarie Street
Bronze Sculpture by Stephen Walker, 1994, located at 111 Macquarie Street
Bronze Sculpture by Stephen Walker, 1994,  located at 111 Macquarie Street
Bronze Sculpture by Stephen Walker, 1994, located at 111 Macquarie Street

Some of these installations have had a nomadic life, moved on from their original locations, when the areas they were originally located in changed ownership or purpose.

Jouney to Southland, Stephen Walker, 1979. Circular concrete fountain containing various bronze sculptural forms. Now located in Salamanca Square, it was originally sited at Risdon Cove.
Jouney to Southland, Stephen Walker, 1979. Circular concrete fountain containing various bronze sculptural forms. Now located in Salamanca Square, it was originally sited at Risdon Cove.
Tidal Pools, Stephen Walker 1970. Bronze sculpture, originally located at Mawson Place, Sullivan's Cove, but moved to Sandy Bay Beach in 2013
Tidal Pools, Stephen Walker 1970. Bronze sculpture, originally located at Mawson Place, Sullivan’s Cove, but moved to Sandy Bay Beach in 2013

In the 21st century, Hobart’s oft-praised artistic tendencies are being celebrated as never before. MONA has made Hobart a destination for arts cognoscenti from around the globe, and local government agencies around the Derwent have put in place some progressive programs and made interesting commissions, which are adding incentive, interest, meaning and reward for those willing to take the time to explore the urban environment.

Armana, James Turrell 2015. Located at MONA, Berridale
Armana, James Turrell 2015. Located at MONA, Berridale
Frida's Car Load, Tony Woodward, 1999. Ceramic tile sculpture located outside the Moonah Arts Centre, Hopkins Street, Moonah
Frida’s Car Load, Tony Woodward, 1999. Ceramic tile sculpture located outside the Moonah Arts Centre, Hopkins Street, Moonah
Tasman Bridge Disaster Memorial, by Poco People (Kelly Eijdenberg & Travis Tiddy), located in Montagu Bay Park
Tasman Bridge Disaster Memorial, by Poco People (Kelly Eijdenberg & Travis Tiddy), located in Montagu Bay Park
The Hand of Change, Matthew Carney, 1990, Macrocarpa pine, located in Montagu Bay Park, Montagu Bay
The Hand of Change, Matthew Carney, 1990, Macrocarpa pine, located in Montagu Bay Park, Montagu Bay

I’ve taken a few strolls recently, exploring some of the more high-profile public art installations around Hobart, visiting the ones I could recall off the top of my head. A little research has reminded me of many more, including entire trails through various suburbs, and I intend to continue my explorations and will document these further.

Bright Prospect, Ian McKay 1990, Bright Steel, located outside the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on Macquarie Street
Bright Prospect, Ian McKay 1990, Bright Steel, located outside the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on Macquarie Street
Duality, Irene Briant, 1990. Ferro-cement sculpture located at 70 Collins Street, Hobart
Duality, Irene Briant, 1990. Ferro-cement sculpture located at 70 Collins Street, Hobart

The process also got me thinking about the various purposes of public art and indeed what defines it as art. The purposes are many, and often involve multiple objectives and outcomes – commemoration, interpretation, wayfinding, recreation, street furniture, and just occasionally, pure whimsy.

Thompson the Dog, Patrick Hall 1996. Timber sculpture located in the Elizabeth Street Mall
Thompson the Dog, Patrick Hall 1996. Timber sculpture located in the Elizabeth Street Mall
Spring, Dean Chatwin 2008.  Fibreglass and stainless steel, located at 111 Macquarie Street
Spring, Dean Chatwin 2008. Fibreglass and stainless steel, located at 111 Macquarie Street
Happy Birthday Mr President XO, Gillie and Marc, 2014. Bronze sculpture located in Salamanca Square, outside the offices of The Mercury newspaper
Happy Birthday Mr President XO, Gillie and Marc, 2014. Bronze sculpture located in Salamanca Square, outside the offices of The Mercury newspaper

The very nature of what constitutes public art has been explored, tested, questioned and celebrated, with ephemoral installations and the questioning of limitations of what can be done by residents in private properties that increasingly ajoin significant public spaces (this essay by John Vella, Hobart artist and Program Director of Art at the Tasmanian School of Art makes fascinating reading). I’m sure that artschool types among my friends and followers will be able to offer definitions, but I think that creative minds are necessary and will add value to any public installation.

Beacon, Ari Purhonen, 2013.  Located at Sandy Bay Beach
Beacon, Ari Purhonen, 2013. Located at Sandy Bay Beach

Please consider this post as simply a taster for more detailed explorations to follow. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from readers about your favourite public art, and what are the boundaries of public art? Is the experience of the artwork more important than the endurance of the tangible object? What artworks have been relocated? Please get in touch via the comments below.

1833, an element of the Battery Point Sculpture Trail, a Hobart City Council Public Art initiative with artistic team Futago in collaboration with Judith Abell and Chris Viney.
1833, an element of the Battery Point Sculpture Trail, a Hobart City Council Public Art initiative with artistic team Futago in collaboration with Judith Abell and Chris Viney.
1833, an element of the Battery Point Sculpture Trail, a Hobart City Council Public Art initiative with artistic team Futago in collaboration with Judith Abell and Chris Viney.
1833, an element of the Battery Point Sculpture Trail, a Hobart City Council Public Art initiative with artistic team Futago in collaboration with Judith Abell and Chris Viney.
Gift from the Earth, Keizo Ushio, donated 2001. Carved granite sculpture located in AJ White Park, Battery Point
Gift from the Earth, Keizo Ushio, donated 2001. Carved granite sculpture located in AJ White Park, Battery Point
Railway Roundabout Fountain, Geoff Parr, Vere Cooper, Rod Cuthbert, 1963. Located in the Railway Roundabout, Brooker Highway, Hobart
Railway Roundabout Fountain, Geoff Parr, Vere Cooper, Rod Cuthbert, 1963. Located in the Railway Roundabout, Brooker Highway, Hobart
Fish out of Water, Patrick Hall 1996. Drinking fountain, located in the Elizabeth Street Mall
Fish out of Water, Patrick Hall 1996. Drinking fountain, located in the Elizabeth Street Mall
Maurice the Pig, Patrick Hall 1996.  Moulded hebel sculpture, located in the Elizabeth Street Mall
Maurice the Pig, Patrick Hall 1996. Moulded hebel sculpture, located in the Elizabeth Street Mall
Thompson the Dog, Patrick Hall 1996. Timber sculpture located in the Elizabeth Street Mall
Thompson the Dog, Patrick Hall 1996. Timber sculpture located in the Elizabeth Street Mall