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shish kebab rehab

edited July 2004 in architecture
This item continues from a blog post of July 10.
In response to an article in the Daily Telegraph that questioned whether the sculptor wanted the shish kebab moved back to Martin Place, ( http://www.dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story.jsp?sectionid=1260&storyid=1642335 )
the kebab lads respond.

MEDIA RELEASE - RESTORE THE SHISH KEBAB - 23 July 2004

Flugelman contacts Shish Kebab protest: "greatly prefers" Martin Place

Bert Flugelman has contacted organisers of the online petition to restore his Shish Kebab sculpture to Martin Place and said that he doesn’t mind at all having the issue gone over again. He confirmed that he still "greatly prefers" Martin Place as a location for the sculpture, and provided further detail on the story of its relocation to Spring Street.

The Shish-Kebab had been in storage for three years after being removed when Martin Place was remodeled in 1996. A petition against destruction of the sculpture by 200 volunteer museum guides sparked interest in it by a number of institutions, including Sydney, Wollongong and Macquarie Universities; the NSW Art Gallery; the National Gallery and others. The quantity and quality of the offers made it obvious to Frank Sartor that the sculpture actually had significant artistic merit, and prompted the decision to put it back in Sydney, and the search for a new location.

The protest organisers, architect Hector Abrahams and web designer Paul Knight believe the site eventually found on a Spring Street traffic island is too "safe" and bland, denying the sculpture its intended impact. "It is a cruel irony that Sir William Dobell, of all people, is now commemorated by a sculpture sited to be as unobtrusive as possible, contrary to the artist's preference, by a committee of bureaucrats" said Abrahams.

"To read in the press the opinion that it is actually better off in Spring Street, along with ‘other artifacts of the 60’s and 70’s, such as Australia Square’ - as if Spring Street were some elephants graveyard of Modernism - says to me that we still regard it as junk. It is not junk. It is a great, timeless, structuralist work of art, and it is site-specific to Martin Place, as much as the opera house is to Bennelong point"

"The suggestion that returning it to Martin Place would be a return to the 70’s is just the same conservative reaction that has always dogged this sculpture under a new trendy disguise. If people felt challenged, even uncomfortable at first, with the interplay between the sculpture and its original surroundings, that is because it was a brilliant and successful piece of art. For once and for all, can we just accept that?"

The protest has attracted criticism, with Sydney's Daily Telegraph describing it as the "silliest ever". "Hector was interviewed on 2GB after the Daily Telegraph article, and there were moments where I wondered if he hadn’t become a shish kebab himself - skewered and held over the flames" said Knight, "but of course we are thrilled that in less than a month our little protest has prompted so much discourse on the value of public art. Everyone loves our website, hits have soared, and the comments we are getting back from supporters show us that some people really get it"

"Even our most vociferous critics agree that something has to be done about the desert Martin Place has become. If we are the catalyst for new thinking about the space, that will be a good result."

"However we maintain that if our aim is achieved, the restored sculpture will not only once again be one of our greatest public works of art, and a fitting memorial to Sir William Dobell, but also it will stand as a permanent reminder that people such as Mayors and state Premiers cannot use their short period of office to dismantle our public art. We reject the suggestion that this is 'silly'.

"To have Bert Flugelman so obviously tickled by the whole thing removes the one concern we had about pushing ahead with the project."

The petition website is at www.restoretheshishkebab.com. A public meeting is planned for 14 August in Martin Place.
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