Melbourne Stories and Tips

Public art in Melbourne

Public art in Melbourne Photo, Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is a city of culture, with a bohemian as well as a snobbishly sophisticated edges to it, and possibly the most civilised (whatever "civilised" might mean here) of the Australian cities. The multi-national but mostly of European origins population as well as a climate with chilly and wet winters and hot summers contribute to a relaxed pace of life supported by cafe culture and a habit of watching the word go by, ideally in some attractive and artily sophisticated location.

What Melbourne is really good at is, however, public art. There is more public art (as well as associated public spaces) in and around the centre of Melbourne than I have seen in any other non-capital New World city, and it can compete with some capitals and even many European locations.

Melbourne city council manages more than 150 public art works, including statues, sculptures, monuments and memorials, water features and drinking fountains. IN addition to those, there are art works owned and managed by private bodies but displayed publicly in front of buildings, in their lobbies or shopping centres as well as "wild" public art, including famous and extensive graffiti in Melbourne's rejuvenated but still edgy lanes.

It's hard to work out a specific route to take it all in, and it's better to keep your eyes peeled for Victorian statues, abstract animals, patterns etched in the ground and flying pigs as you walk the streets of Melbourne, but some of the most popular and best examples can be found in the CBD and along the Yarra river.

Deborah Halpern' s "Angel" is a striking work, a huge three-legged, colourful, abstract creature built of ceramic tiles on steel and concrete frame is standing in the riverside park of Birrarung Marr. It looks like an offspring of Picasso, Dali and Miro combined and it is strangely compelling in its playful, organic form.

Petrus Spronk's Architectural Fragment looks like a corner of a classic building fallen onto or emerging from the pavement in the front of State Library of Victoria, inspired by Shelley's Ozymandias.

Birrarung Wilam, also in the Birrarung Marr park, is an extensive installation by Vicki Couzens, Lee Darroch and Treahna Hamm, inspired by the indigenous Australians' connection to places and the heritage of local tribes.

Constellation is a series of figurehead-like sculptures by Bruce Armstrong and Geoffrey Bartlett that sit of timber beams extending from original shipping wharf on the Yarra.

Simon Perry's Public Purse is a granite-and-steel seat on the corner of Bourke St Mall and Elizabeth St, looking like a huge, old-fashioned purse some giant dropped while shopping in this commercial area.

In the middle of Melbourne's busy CBD, there is bronze by Alison Weaver and Paul Quinn, called Three Businessmen Who Brought Their Own Lunch: Batman, Swanston and Hoddle, a life-size caricature of a group of stuffy suits on their lunch break.

Nadim Karam's Travellers walk on the railings of Sandridge Bridge over Yarra, ten large steel tubing figures representing abstracted images of people different waves of settlement and migration to Australia, from the original Aboriginal owners to convicts, gold rush miners and refugees.

The flying pig (as well as a flying horse, fish and a bird) can be found among Daniel Jenkins' Weathervanes, on the corner of Bourke and Swanston.

More modern public art can be found around city's cultural institutions, particularly in the Arts' Precinct on St Kilda road, while Victorian works are dotted around city's older parks and gardens.

Melbourne's Docklands is home to many modern, often industrial-inspired works can be seen, including Geoffrey Bartlett's stainless steel Aurora, Duncan Stemler's kinetic Blowhole, Emily Floyd's black, Hans Arpesque Rabbit and John Kelly's whimsical but tragically inspired Cow up a Tree.

Public art is everywhere in Melbourne, from pavement inlays to murals, architectural decorations to quirky sculptures; lift up your head and look around and you will likely spot some.

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