Janet Holmes à Court, Chairperson of the Art Gallery of WA, and renowned sculptor, Tony Jones (maker of Eliza at Crawley and Horse and Rider, the C Y O’Connor sculpture off O’Connor Beach) led a rally attended by artists, architects, art conservators, curators, art collectors and public art consultants this morning outside Central Park building in the Perth CBD to protest the relocation of four of five panels by the late renowned WA artist Brian McKay (1926 – 2014). Owners of the building, Perron Group and Singapore’s Frasers Commercial Trust, plan to move the panels, valued at $5 million, to establish a coffee shop in the foyer of the building.
Holmes à Court said the move was cultural vandalism. “Brian McKay was at the forefront of contemporary art for five decades. The panels at Central Park are considered his masterpiece. They have been described as a pre-eminent example of privately sponsored public art in Perth as well as being Australia’a largest public artwork. The work demonstrates McKay legendary capacity in etching and painting aluminium.”
She urged people to revisit the work, saying it was a work of grandeur. “Every time I walk through Central Park I think, ‘One human being made this.’ The work has always been considered to be safe from commercial compromise because it is the state’s pre-eminent commission in a corporate foyer. It’s a brilliant example of artist, architect, owner and construction company working together.”
Calling Stan and Jean Perron friends, just as she considered Brian McKay a friend, Holmes à Court said the Perron’s had been extraordinarily generous in their philanthropy. “What a great shame if this proposed work on Brian’s mural goes ahead. They will be remembered by all of us in a very different light. As for Frasers, what a shame they have no respect for our cultural heritage. Their acknowledgement of our pleading and letters was only – ‘your letter has been received.'”
Makers of the panels, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, has advised attempts to remove the panels with damage the artwork irreparably. Holmes à Court said McKay’s vision was to meld art and architecture. “Perth has lost far too much of its public art,” she said.
Present at the protest was Kester McKay, the artist’s daughter, who said the owners of the building had contacted her a month ago and wanted her to advise them how to take the works down safely. “I declined,” she said. “We need beauty around us at the moment, and Dad’s artwork is beautiful. It will be trashed if we all don’t stand up and say something.”
Perron Group CEO, Ross Robertson, had been invited to address the rally, but declined.
The City of Perth is currently considering the owner’s application to remove part of the work in February next year. Those who oppose the move are advised to contact the City of Perth.