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08 Mar 2018

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Southbank has been revealed as the lucky recipient of a series of four major public art commissions, with the first to come at a cost of $2 million.

City of Melbourne councillors endorsed plans to proceed with the first of the four commissions at its council meeting on February 27, which will be installed in Dodds St as part of the transformation of Southbank Boulevard.

Irish academic Vaari Claffey has been engaged as a “public art strategist” to oversee the project, which will see a further three works produced for Southbank’s new public realm in the heart of the Arts Precinct.

Ms Claffey appointment follows an international search conducted by a Curatorial Advisory Group (CAG) consisting of representatives from the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA).

A council report stated: “in prioritising significant sites for public art in the immediate term, Southbank, Melbourne Metro, University Square and the QVM renewal programs were considered, with Southbank providing the most profound, imminent opportunity.”

In August last year, Ms Claffey spent two weeks in Southbank undertaking primary research into the area and worked closely with Arts Melbourne and City Design Studio to inform her strategy for the precinct.

The strategy, presented to council at last month’s meeting, outlines the first piece of public art to be a “Destination Artwork”, with the winning artist to be announced publicly in August following a tender process.

To be permanently closed to make way for a new linear park, Dodds St was selected as the most suitable site for the major artwork based on its location in the heart of the Arts Precinct and proximity to VCA.

Council’s report noted that throughout the community consultation for the Southbank Boulevard and Dodds St concept plan, public art was consistently requested to be a feature of the completed project.

Acting Lord Mayor Arron Wood said: “I look forward to what is, by the looks of it and the intent of it, going to be something that puts us on the world map in terms of something that you have to see when you come to Melbourne.”

“It’s probably not since the Yellow Peril that we got a little bit nervous about public art so to see us getting back into the public art commissioning I think is a good thing.”

“If we’re going to have an Arts Precinct, which is everyone, from Minister Foley to many of the great institutions that are in this precinct, are calling for then we need to be supporting this kind of major public art commission whole heartedly.”

Cr Nic Francis-Gilley said: This is a way of really starting to envisage the city and I think it’s going to be a great example of how we think about the future and art at its heart and centre is really fantastic.

What do you think about new public artwork in Southbank’s Arts Precinct? Send your thoughts to

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