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Major public artwork set to dramatically exceed $2m price tag

Major public artwork set to dramatically exceed $2m price tag

By David Schout

A major public artwork set for Southbank will cost far more than the original $2 million price tag.

The public piece, which will be located on Dodds St next to the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), has had few public updates, and little is known about the work or artist.

However, Southbank News understands that the City of Melbourne has opted to invest significantly higher than the $2 million figure originally announced for the showpiece work.

The original project was approved by the council almost four years ago in February 2018, and an artist was set to be announced in August that year.

However, when appointing the artist, it is understood the council chose to significantly increase the scope of the project, which has contributed to the delay.

The budget for the major commission includes artist fees, fabrication and installation.

The council remained tight-lipped on the project and a spokesperson told Southbank News it would simply be completed “in the coming years”.

Expectations for the large-scale work, which was set to be “immersive” and “ambitious in thought and form”, were expected to grow on the back of the news.

There was confidence from those with knowledge of proceedings that the piece would be a significant contribution to the local area.

The council has previously said the work would “achieve multiple benefits”, which included “creating meaning through a significant contribution to the people of Melbourne, its visitors and, ultimately, the identity of the city”.

It considered a number of different sites for the major piece, including Melbourne Metro, University Square and the Queen Victoria Market renewal space.

However, it landed on Southbank — specifically the northern section of Dodds St — as the “most profound, imminent opportunity”.

The public work is set to be the first of four major public art commissions in Southbank.

In 2017, Irish academic Vaari Claffey was engaged as a “public art strategist” for Southbank.

The independent curator spent two weeks researching the area, which informed the Public Art Strategy for Southbank endorsed by the council.

A report by SGS Economics and Planning released earlier this year found that a $1 million investment by the City of Melbourne in public art would generate an increase in visitation and subsequent tourist spending of $4.2 million.

“The City of Melbourne’s public art program includes temporary and permanent artwork to drive visitation to Melbourne and reinforce our position as the cultural capital of Australia,” a council spokesperson said.

“Our Southbank public art commission is part of this program and will be completed in the coming years.”

The creative economy accounts for eight per cent of employment within the municipality.

A report in the Herald Sun in April last year claimed that the artwork was “a kangaroo on a chair wrapped in wire and lights” by a New Zealand artist, in what Boonwurrung Aboriginal elder Carolyn Briggs, who was consulted on the project, described at the time as a “creative, whimsical and fun” installation •

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