Art & Design

Cool Public Art to Visit on Your CBD Lunch Break

By Stephen A Russell
7th Aug 2015

Melbourne’s trying to push back against winter as hard as she can, with the odd bloody brilliant day slipping through, but even on the coldest and greyest, it still pays to down tools for a mo and step away from your desk for lunch to get some fresh air.

While a nearby park seems the obvious escape point, in a city renowned for its street art, why not shake it up a bit and check out some of these cool spots to park for a moment while you sip your takeaway coffee and munch on a baguette?

In Melbourne, even a dark and lonely alleyway is just a blank canvas waiting for transformation, while any street corner’s crying out for a cool sculpture. Here are just a few of our favourites pieces of public art. Midday just got way more interesting.

Larry La Trobe, City Square

This lil' critter, overlooking City Square on the corner of Collins and Swanston, has to one of Melbourne’s cutest public art pieces, with his floppy ears, spiky collar and protruding tongue. The bronze dog sculpture was crafted by Pamela Irving and took up residence in 1992. Alas, Larry only lasted three years before some scoundrel took off with him; no mean feat with 30cm bolts anchoring our little mate into the pavement. Thankfully he was replaced, so passers by can perch on his back whenever the mood so takes them.

Unnamed Indigenous Boy, Hosier Lane

One of Melbourne’s most celebrated street artists, Adnate started off tagging his own bunk bed at home as a kid, but these days he gets commissioned by councils and private art collectors. If you find yourself near Fed Square, dip into celebrated graffiti hot-spot Hosier Lane, pop your bum onto a window ledge and check out his vast mural of an indigenous boy staring dreamily out to Birrarung Marr. Daubed 23-metre’s high on the back of McDonald House, it’s a beautiful place to lose yourself while munching your lunch.

The Public Purse, Bourke Street Mall

While the old GPO was being transformed into European high street chain H&M’s brand new Aussie base, this oversized piece of imaginative street seating by Simon Perry got shunted over the tram tracks to the Swanston corner. We’re glad it’s back where it’s been parked since 1994. Who knows how many coffees have been grabbed while plonked on its red granite perch? You could always try popping it open for loose change…

Architectural Fragment, State Library of Victoria

Like some ancient relic dredged up from Atlantis, we love the bluestone chunk of monument protruding from Swanston Street with the word ‘Library,’ lopped off halfway through. Designed by Dutch expat artist Petrus Spronk, frankly the most steam-punk name we’ve ever heard, it’s got a fabulously mysterious air about it, as if of city’s lost to time. Which makes it perfect for losing your lunchtime over stationed on the grass nearby.

Bunjil, Docklands

He may be stuck in a bit of lonely parkland next to a motorway and a building site, in the shadow of Etihad Stadium, but we love big Bunjil by Bruce Armstrong, a 25-metre tall concrete sculpture of the eagle who is seen as a creator god by the Kulin nations, including the Wurundjeri people. Though it sounds a tall task, he may have to be moved as the area is further developed. Good luck with that, and in the meantime, we’ll quietly eat our sambos and leave him a few crumbs.

Vault, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

We love this great big yellow hulk of a sculpture by Ron Robertson-Swann, but the poor bugger had a tough time of it in its first few years. The abstract piece was originally unveiled in City Square, faced a huge public backlash, gaining the dubious nickname Yellow Peril, then exiled to a lonely spot in Batman Park. Thankfully Vault got its chance to shine again in 2002 when it was moved to the sandy forecourt of Southbank’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, a fitting home and a great spot to take a break.

Supersonic, Collins Square 

The new kid on the newest block, Dion Horstmans’ 80-metre-long Supersonic, stretched like bright yellow lightning bolts over Docklands’ Collins Square, certainly shares some DNA with Vault. Constructed from 100 separate pieces of tubular steel welded together, it’s a pretty cool place to chill out with an alfresco snack.

Union Lane, Melbourne CBD

Union Lane, running between the Myer bit of Bourke Street Mall and Little Collins, is another excellent hub of Melbourne’s graffiti culture, offering up 550 square metres worth of concrete canvas for those who want to leave their mark, at least temporarily. City of Melbourne first turned over the space to a group of 50 young artists in 2007 as part of a mentoring program that’s kept on giving.

Image credit: Vandalog

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