New public art announcement and pop-up basketball courts open at Melbourne Square

New public art announcement and pop-up basketball courts open at Melbourne Square
Jack Hayes

Guardian Lion, an eye-catching nearly 20-metre-wide multi-coloured piece of public art from local artist Troy Emery will soon become a Southbank fixture when installed on Melbourne Square’s Power St-facing wall later this year.

Emery’s piece is the winning pick from a competition by OSK Property, the developer behind Melbourne Square, to “design a new sculptural landmark in the city.”

OSK Property launched the initiative to select the winning artist to design a visual gateway connecting Melbourne Square with its neighbouring arts precinct through a large-scale and visually striking sculptural artwork.

Global art firm Urban Arts Project (UAP) was called upon to oversee the competition which distilled down three finalists, with Guardian Lion coming out on top due to its vibrancy, ability to engage with the site and representation of Melbourne’s rich tapestry of public artworks.

Emery, whose works have exhibited in the NGV and been commissioned by global fashion house Hermes, drew inspiration from traditional Chinese architecture and Japanese symbolism, whereby lions and dogs guard the entrances to shrines and signify strength.

Inspiration also came from the Victorian folklore, come conspiracy theory, of the “Grampians big cat” – a mythical big cat living in the Grampians mountain range.

“I want Guardian Lion to make people happy, to give people a sense of companionship as they travel through the area, like a friendly neighbourhood cat that greets passers-by,” Emery said. “Guardian Lion is a surrogate pet for the neighbourhood and for the city.”



“One part of the brief that I particularly resonated with was the idea that Melbourne Square is a ‘gateway to the creative precinct.’ The NGV, Arts Centre, VCA, ACCA, and Malthouse Theatre are all close neighbours, and the work’s location is a gateway to the CBD, so I set out to design a figure that will welcome people to the area.”

“This is such an incredible opportunity to contribute to the cityscape of Melbourne with a large-scale public artwork, and I’m excited to have my work join a library of so many great artworks around the city. Being chosen to create a sculpture for the Melbourne Square Art Wall means I’m able to share my work with new audiences and hopefully bring a sense of joy and wonder to those who encounter it.”

“The intense spectrum of colour in the work not only is an antidote to the greys and browns of the cityscape but serves to reiterate the fantastical spectrum of the natural world, where the intense colours represent the magical qualities of life on earth.”

Guardian Lion measures in at 15.4 metres in height, 18.7 metres wide and is cut from aluminium with LED flex lighting. The artwork is expected to be installed later this year.

From art to sports, it will come as no surprise to many Southbankers to learn the Melbourne Square pop-up basketball courts are now open.

Despite being open and used by the public for more than six weeks at the time of publishing, Southbank News understands the City of Melbourne is still finalising its funding commitment towards the project.

First announced in April 2023 by this masthead, the temporary basketball courts have been warmly welcomed by Southbankers following the demolition of the Boyd Park basketball courts to make way for developer PDG’s 42-storey “Boyd Village”, which will be home to 434 build-to-rent (BTR) apartments.

A permanent basketball court will be installed in the coming years at the Kings Way undercroft as part of the City Road Master Plan.

The public can access the Melbourne Square courts from 11am to 5pm daily. •

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