Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority will soon begin cleaning the east-facing façade of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) to preserve and reinvigorate its quayside exterior. But unlike most building works, the scaffold surrounding the iconic building won’t be covered by a dull wrap – it will be transformed into an enormous six-storey high public artwork that will unravel and evolve over three months.
Since Friday 5 July, the artwork has begun to reveal itself in the first of five stages to be carried out over the 89-day period of scaffold construction and disassembly, and will be more than 2,300 square metres at its optimal phase by early August.
Following the fantastic recent success of The Rocks Windmill and Vivid Festival, The Rocks precinct is building a reputation as an arts hub, with the Foreshore Authority championing public art activation, supported by the MCA in commissioning the two artists who will undertake this ambitious project.
The otherwise blank white scaffold covering will be used as a canvas by artists Mike Hewson and Agatha Gothe-Snape, who will collaborate on what is a creative approach to the maintenance of one of Sydney’s most recognised buildings, says Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority CEO Catherine Gallagher.
“We’re very mindful of the MCA building’s prominence on the Sydney panorama.” said Ms Gallagher, “As leaders in place making, the cleaning work presents the Authority with an opportunity to add a stunning large-scale contemporary artwork to the landscape, creating an intriguing and memorable experience for locals and visitors to our city.”
Contemporary as well as relevant, this project taps into the trend of public place making that is embraced by artists the world over. Public place making and large-scale art go hand in hand, working together in a symbiotic relationship to enhance public spaces with somewhat incongruous and imaginative artworks that encourage the passer-by to imagine, re-evaluate and critically engage with their ‘everyday’ environments.
Olafur Eliasson’s The New York City Waterfalls, in which the artist constructed four man-made waterfalls on the city’s foreshore, stands as one of the most stunning examples of contemporary large-scale public art. While closer to home, legendary contemporary artists Christo and Jean Claude captured the world’s imagination wrapping the cliffs of La Perouse with fabric, playing with the idea of art versus nature.
A nod to Christo and Jeanne Claude with a little something extra, the MCA artwork will transform a simple covering into something much more by incorporating elements of both Hewson and Gothe-Snape’s individual styles in an intricate mix of text-based and graphic elements.
Hewson’s installation-based work augments existing architectural structures with illusory and distorting effects, while Gothe-Snape’s conceptual works focus on the human side of art – relationships between people, art and art-spaces. Together, their work will feature a massive typographical illusion that will transform during the five stages of the building’s cleaning process.
Playing with the uneven exterior of the museum, the work will use dimensional perspective and a clever play on words to create a poetic and intriguing artwork that will grow and shrink, and change in appearance and meaning as scaffolding is assembled and deconstructed.
“We want each individual member of the public to interact with the work differently,” says Gothe-Snape. “As each stage unfolds, the work intervenes on the site to create new meanings.”
Underneath this huge work of art, the MCA will continue to exhibit as normal with its impressive Winter Season featuring the Jeff Wall and Wangechi Mutu exhibitions. Opening hours remain the same and the exhibitions will be unaffected – the only difference is that patrons will now experience an additional exterior exhibition as part of their gallery visit.
Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is proud to manage The Rocks: traditional land of the Cadigal people and the birthplace of European settlement in Australia. While preserving The Rocks’ unique heritage, the Authority produces large-scale and intimate quality events, outdoor markets, and educational tours. The Rocks: it’s a perfect blend of culture, cuisine and myriad experiences worth savouring.
For more information visit www.therocks.com