News & Commentary, Visual Arts

Sydney to get 50 metre ‘Cloud Arch’ on George Street

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Sydney has had the Opera House for more than four decades and the Harbour Bridge for more than eight, but the city is about to get a new potential landmark, right in the centre of George Street. As part of the City of Sydney’s “City Centre Public Art Plan”, Japanese artist Junya Ishigami’s Cloud Arch will be erected outside Sydney Town Hall, towering 50 metres above George Street.

It will act as a gateway to the new “pedestrian only” zone of George Street, made up of curved steel plates. A new light rail will run down the street, underneath the arch.

Joining the Cloud Arch are two other public art works, including Hany Armanious’ Paviliona 13 metre high milk crate that will sit in Belmore Park next to Central station, and Tracey Emin’s The Distance of Your Heartwhich is made up of 60 bronze bird sculptures, which will be perched on poles and above doorways throughout the northern end of the city. Installation on the works is due to start in 2017.

Three art works were chosen from 700 submissions by a panel of four arts experts: Lisa Havilah, Director of Carriageworks, Richard Johnson, Professor of Architecture at UNSW, Janet Laurence, Artist and visiting fellow at the College of Fine Arts and Anne Loxley, Curator of C3West for the Museum of Contemporary Art.

City of Sydney has created a website for the community to have “your say” on the three public art works. However, the art works have already been locked in, which has prompted one respondent to ask: “What is the point of asking us what we think when you’ve already bought the art?”

The responses to Cloud Arch have been generally positive, although a few are concerned about its position so close to heritage buildings, the Queen Victoria Building and Sydney Town Hall. The responses for Pavilion have been mixed, with a few concerned that it will become a makeshift homeless shelter, but people have been very happy with The Distance of Your Heart.

Here are some of the community responses for each of the art works:

Responses for Cloud Arch

“I like this proposed new public art. I don’t live in the city but work there five days a week and I look forward to this major revamp of George Street, even if it is likely to make driving in the city a bit more difficult. We need big ideas, open living spaces and inspirational leaders and thankfully Clover Moore provides that to offset the whining, small-minded Luddites who will always oppose just about anything instinctively and without much thoughtful consideration, if any, because that’s what their sad, closed mindset dictates.”

“Seriously, the “wavy arch”? (and lets be honest, no one will ever call it the Cloud Arch) You want to put it near Town Hall? Near the Town Hall that’s near the QVB? Near all that beautiful classical architecture?”

“I love that Sydney has taken this bold step and public art is incredibly important. While I love the the other two I’ll have to be a dissenter here. I don’t see the fluidity or grace, I just see a landmark that overshadows one of Sydney’s most iconic and historical buildings. Art is Al about personal preference and mine isn’t for this statue.”

“This is thrilling and graceful. It’s height and its fluidity makes it visible and ever changing in shape to people as they move through the city. Even if people don’t like it now – hopefully they will come to appreciate it once they see it. Thanks Clover!”

Responses for Pavilion

“Love the cloud, but poor old Belmore Park gets the cheap laugh. As another commentator said, it might be a passable as a short term Sydney Festival idea, but the joke will get old fast. It’s such a thin formulaic premise for art – “take any ordinary object. make it big. = art”. No it doesn’t.”

“I have a concern with it becoming a makeshift homeless refuge. It is random, which is what I like about it. Although it makes me think of Mardi Gras with everyone standing on crates to capture a view of the parade.”

“I can smell the stale urine already. You are a little optimistic I think.”

“I love the humour in this and as a native Sydney-sider this represents so much of my childhood engaging in Sydney events, culture and sport. Just wonderful!”

Responses for The Distance of Your Heart

“Having some Tracey Emin works in Sydney is a real win. I think this work will be fun to discover on my walking trips.”

“Love it. People from overseas do notice our city birdlife, which they don’t have elsewhere.”

4 responses to “Sydney to get 50 metre ‘Cloud Arch’ on George Street

  1. Cloud Arch looks like a scaled-up piece of boardroom sculpture. Pigeons will love it, people not so much.

  2. Why not? They’re gonna do it anyway rather than spend the money where it’s needed, classic city council. We’re always told how much people hated the Opera House when it was first built. It might work out.

  3. Well the three ‘winners’ look above average without being amazing. Such simple gestures in art succeed through their execution, the attention to detail and quality of workmanship utilised. Computer mock ups always look good but it’s in the physical execution that it really matters. Get the finish wrong and it really kills any ‘cute’ idea.
    Basically two of the works are from the ‘take something simple and blow it up to HUGE’. That’s not a criticism, it what the Pyramids do, but it is pretty standard fare in art. As an artist who has done a couple of major public sculptures (one outside GOMA in Brisbane) I can say that the selection of which artists get these is often ‘in house’ meaning it’s whether the artist is part if the club or not. This is an in house selection and they all are to be honest. In Brisbane I have only ever got a few over the years because I’m not actually in the club that gives them out. That’s one thing about Public Art that isn’t ‘public’. But then the workings of the powerful in Australian art are often hidden. The strangle hold on Sydney art the MCA has is insidious and detrimental in the end. But hey, that’s Sinny for you.

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