The only Australian artist in competition to design a piece of public art for the foyer of a major new commercial building in Sydney has beaten a field of international contenders to clinch the gig.
Leading contemporary artist Janet Laurence, speaking from Iceland where she is currently on a trip, said she was thrilled to have been awarded the prestigious assignment.
“I’m delighted to have been selected as it’s been a long time since I’ve done a public art work,” she said.
“In addition, public space has become so much more interesting, with the city becoming virtually a museum of public works of both Australian and international artists.”
Laurence’s successful concept of a mid-air sculpture will be created and installed in the four-storey glass atrium of the 27-level Poly Centre Sydney, at 210 George Street, with the help of global creative studio and curator UAP.
The sculpture will be a floating cultivation of greenery, with a series of layered images drawn from the lush greens of the wilderness, on suspended cylindrical semi-transparent panels. It will be on show from the building’s expected completion in late 2021.
Building owners Poly Australia, currently taking commercial tenant inquiries for the Grimshaw Architects-designed tower which will become the new gateway to Circular Quay, believes the eye-catching artwork will help make the 19,700-square-metre building even more attractive to potential occupants.
“Tenants who want a particular A-grade or premium building want to have a showcase, and create a presence not just for themselves but also for their clients who visit their offices,” said Poly NSW executive director Simon Blount. “They want their building and lobby space to reflect on the businesses using the space.
“It’s also important for the tens of thousands of people who walk by the building every day in adding quality and diversity to the streetscape.”
The choice of artist – with Laurence competing against Emmanuelle Moureaux, from France, and Pae White from the US in the final three whittled down from a large field of artists – was decided in the last instance by Poly and Grimshaw.
All the staff at Poly had the chance to vote, and overwhelmingly chose Laurence’s concept for the space. “I think everyone’s really happy with the choice and, because she happens to be Australian and is based in Sydney, this is a great opportunity to showcase her work to the community,” said Mr Blount.
“Her work was a standout. The city is very much a concrete jungle, so it’s very nice to get a bit of green in there that reflects the environment and gives back to the city.
“The environmental focus of her work also reflects our philosophy.”
Mr Blount said the art work told a story about the natural wonders of the world and would foster a sense of calmness in the middle of so much fast-paced, frenetic urban activity.
UAP curator Ineke Dane said Laurence was an excellent fit with the space. “She’s one of Australia’s most pre-eminent artists, and one of its most progressive in response to the environment and climate change,” Ms Dane said.
“Her work really connects the natural world and architecture and the built environment, and is such a good fit with Poly and its ethos … That corner has a huge amount of visibility from lots of different directions and vantage points, and hopefully will give a lot of people the chance to appreciate it. It’s something out of the ordinary and a new experience and really exciting.”
Laurence hoped her work would prove thought-provoking, too – reminding, and educating, people about lost and threatened nature within the city.
“My work for this space, I hope, can create a sense of a greenhouse through transparent and mirror-reflected images of varying scaled plants layered and seemingly entwined within the high glass foyer space,” she said. “I’ll use the height to enable a sense of spillage down of masses of plants filling the space.
“I want the work to have an amplified perceptual, as well as visual, impact for those walking by and those within the space. I believe the built environment of the city needs more nature interwoven into it to create a better quality of life within our cities.”
Poly Centre Sydney will rise around 110 metres, with a mix of retail and commercial on the ground floor. Commercial-tenant queries are being handled by Colliers International and JLL, and retail by Knight Frank.
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