A 13-piece $500,000 white fibreglass sculpture called Silence by Gippsland artist Adrian Mauriks has been selected as the first significant artwork to be installed at the NewQuay residential, retail and commercial precinct being built at the Docklands.
The developers have made much of the idea that, at NewQuay, "art will be all around you". But this commission for the front of the Arkley tower (named for the late painter Howard Arkley) is the first taste of the art the public can expect on the NewQuay banks of Victoria Harbor.
Mauriks, 58, describes his installation as curvy, sensual and abstract. It takes up a huge 18.5 by 12.5 metres of ground space, with the largest pieces standing 4.6 metres tall. People will be able to walk through and touch it.
It is the biggest commission Mauriks has received in his 30-year career. He wants the installation, which he says represents an abstract natural environment and was not influenced by the namesake of building it fronts, to make people feel good.
"My work relates to states of mind," he says. "We are all very similar in many ways, but you can't control everything. Unexpected things happen, and how you deal with them changes your perceptions. My intention is that you respond to this piece, that you find it attractive because of your intellectual baggage."
Mauriks was one of 10 Australian sculptors short-listed by the NewQuay developers, MAB Corporation, for the commission. In announcing the short-list earlier this year, MAB executive director Michael Buxton said he was keeping a "completely open" mind about what sort of sculpture would be chosen for the site but did stipulate that the piece or pieces be "an imposing feature on the waterfront".
The size of Silence alone leaves little doubt that Mauriks' piece will be an imposing presence at Victoria Harbor, and the installation's construction is unlikely to be as peaceful as its title. Mauriks, who was awarded the commission three weeks ago, must have the work completed for the opening of the Arkley tower - the precinct's first high-rise - in November.
Mauriks, who has exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas, works from his two farm-shed studios at his home between Morwell and Foster, in the Strzelecki Ranges. He recently exhibited other fibreglass works in Singapore. An earlier piece, the steel Opus 15, stands at the corner of Bridge and Punt Roads in Richmond. He also has a large bronze work Bird Totem in the Sydney CBD, commissioned by the AMP Society in 1988, and the steel Opus 10, in Sydney's World Trade Centre.
Most of the $500,000 commission for Silence will go towards the construction of the sculpture.
More than $60 million is to be spent on artworks at the Docklands over 10years. MAB Corporation will offer artists $10 million over that decade to create work for NewQuay. While the MAB figure is in line with a Melbourne Docklands requirement that all developers spend 1per cent of the cost of their project on the commissioning of "integrated" art, MAB has described NewQuay as "Melbourne's first major waterfront art precinct" and has given other towers going up such names as the Nolan and the Boyd.
Melbourne graphic designer Matthew McCarthy has designed a vast (40 metres by 30 metres) mural for the Arkley tower, artists Callum Morton, Alexander Knox and David Rosetzky are working with final-year architecture students at RMIT to come up with a series of "sculptural follies" for the waterfront to double as small retail and information booths.
Megan Backhouse, 2001