Southbank lit up with Hanover House artwork

By David Schout

For the next six months, Southbank’s Hanover House will transform into a vibrant display of 1970s-style wallpaper and neon lights after dark.

Artist Atong Atem’s huge new public work Outdoor Living, on the soon-to-be demolished building on the corner of City Rd and Power St, was unveiled in late August.

At 5.30pm every day until midnight, the City Rd-facing side of the building will be lit up with illuminated neon tulips.

Perhaps even more strikingly, the longer Power St-facing facade features a stunning large-scale orange mural inspired by wallpapers of the 1970s Australian home, and a 8.5-metre high neon banksia.

Atem, a South Sudanese artist based in Melbourne, spent six weeks throughout July and August working on the murals.

“I’m interested in the relationships between people, our connection with the natural and built environments, and how this is interwoven with the visual signs and symbols that define our histories,” she said.

“I’m interested in the aesthetics of 1970s Australian homes and have chosen to reference the intimacy of those spaces by creating a wallpaper pattern reminiscent of late 20th-century living room walls.”

The vibrant piece was commissioned by developer Beulah, which recently launched an experiential event series called “BETA” at Hanover House.

Beulah acquired the building earlier this year as part of its plans to build Australia’s tallest tower — the 365-metre, $2 billion STH BNK development — on the neighbouring site.

The building was set to host a range of arts and food events prior to its demolition, including Higher Order, an immersive dining experience by chef Scott Pickett (of Longrain, Matilda and Estelle fame).

However, at the time of publishing it was unclear how Melbourne’s sixth COVID-19 lockdown would impact the schedule.

Fortunately, Atem’s public artwork could be enjoyed by Southbankers irrespective of the lockdown.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp joined the artist for a photo opportunity at Hanover House, and said it symbolised what was great about the city.

“I’m excited to see Outdoor Living light up our city and continue to enrich Melbourne’s reputation as the arts capital of Australia,” she said.

“Atong Atem has created a visual representation of what Melbourne means to her, and I believe we can all find some connection with her work – whether it be a connection to nature, city or a sense of belonging. The transformation of the Melbourne Arts Precinct continues to prove itself as a major drawcard for our city.”

Developed in 1973, Hanover House was one of Southbank’s tallest buildings until the 1990s despite being just seven storeys high.

When Beulah acquired the site earlier this year, it said the purchase would create a “rare island site” for its wider development.

“Acquiring Hanover House is a strategic move that will allow us to truly realise our vision for Southbank by Beulah and that is to create a cultural heart for the Southbank area and its surrounds,” Beulah managing director Jiaheng Chan said.

“Having a rare island site in this central location will provide us endless opportunities to create a state-of-the-art precinct, unlike anything Melbourne has seen.”

Atem’s newly unveiled mural and neon lights will remain on the building until early 2022 •

For more information: sthbank.com/events

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