One of the things I like most about Sydney is its art. Not the kind that dwells in galleries, cloistered from the public touch; but the kind that lives and breathes in public spaces, where you can touch it as much as you want.
Around the world, public art has a habit of exciting controversy.
Even in the extremely unlikely event that everyone in a community agrees that a public artwork is tasteful, well-executed, and in harmony with its environment, there will always be someone who is willing to argue that the money could have been more wisely spent.
This work of art on the Manly Wharf is called “Shell”. According to a plaque on the walkway, it is meant to be a reflection of the suburb’s relationship with the “natural environment, the harbour, and ocean marine life”.
But pretty much everyone in the neighbourhood refers to the sculpture, more bluntly, as, ahem, “The Turd”. It is supposed to be a “mist sculpture”, with little jets of water sending up a fine spray at regular intervals, in accordance with the marine theme.
Apparently, when that was the case, the sculpture was known locally as “The Steaming Dog Turd”. But council officials ordered the mist to be turned off, because it supposedly interefered with traffic visibility and could prove a hazard to children.
So now it’s just a big lump of coiled metal that looks like a beautiful nautilus shell. Or, you know…dinosaur droppings, as a Manly councillor recently suggested, during a debate over whether or not the sculpture should be removed and sold as scrap metal.
Personally, I have no problem with this fine example of money well spent in the pursuit of public art.
Children love to clamber all over it, tourists like to have their photograph taken in front of it, and surely, any artwork that can suceed in offending a good proportion of the local pupulace, can’t be all bad.