A Salute to Five Sydney Murals
With a little nod to the title of John Olsen's 1973 Opera House work, we salute five of our favourite public murals from our home town of Sydney, Australia.
Salute to Five Bells
It wouldn't happen these days. In August 1972, James Gleeson, artist and chairman of the Dobell Foundation, invited John Olsen to lunch. "Would you like to do a mural in the Sydney Opera House?" he asked. Olsen's reply – "Can I start tomorrow?"
Olsen, then 44, was told to choose his spot. He picked the curved wall in the vestibule at the rear of the concert hall, with its astonishing panoramic view of Sydney Harbour. Olsen knew the commission to put the final touches on one of the few great buildings ever built in this country was "out-of-the-moon stuff"; it needed a narrative, a deeply felt story by a poet. Then, roaming the shelves of his home, while worrying over the problem, Olsen fell upon Kenneth Slessor's poem Five Bells.
Rose Seidler House
A colourful mural covers one side of the house Harry Seidler designed for his parents in 1948 and evokes Le Corbusier's murals in France - an architect Seidler much admired and described as "the ultimate designer".
The famous mural at the Rose Seidler house is very Corbusian in its forms and colours, but the house plan and elevation are most definitely influenced by Seidler's former mentor Marcel Breuer.
Homage to CPE Bach
Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon completed the design for only one interior – now called the Utzon room. This space embodies Utzon’s élan, his vision in harmony with the environment. He designed this tapestry Homage to CPE Bach specifically for the Utzon Room.
Wall Drawing #898
The year was 1998 and LeWitt was in Sydney for his exhibition at the MCA. Seidler took the opportunity to show him the foyer space in the almost-completed Horizon Tower, where he commissioned the artist to create a large wall-painting.
The bold design which was installed during the following year, resulted in the most unforgettable lobby entrance in the city; a pyramid of blue, yellow, green, red and purple, juxtaposed against Seidler’s typically minimalist palette of cream travertine walls and dark granite.
The piece was such a success that it was LeWitt who Seidler turned to in 2002 to create a new work for the foyer in Australia Square.
Bars of Color
Opening in 1967, Australia Square had a massive Alexander Calder sculpture on the George Street side and two large tapestries to the east side - one by the French-Hungarian artist, Victor Vasarely, the other by the great 20th century architect Le Corbusier.
The sculpture remains, but in 2003 during the current refurbishment, "something more contemporary" was wanted and Harry Seidler commissioned a work from the New York artist Sol LeWitt, which encircles the concrete drum of the foyer.