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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

Controversial ‘phallic’ sculpture could be removed: councillor

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The new sculpture on the Bayshore Drive roundabout has already become a public joke. Photo: Jeff Dawson

Is the Ewingsdale roundabout sculpture a safe and secure structure? Yes, according to Byron Shire Council staff, who claim in an online statement that engineering requirements have been met.

Yet the controversial artwork could be soon removed if a motion by Cr Jan Hackett is passed at the next Council meeting.

Last week, she told The Echo that, as a public art panellist, her group were unhappy with the result and process that led to its construction.

She says the work remains incomplete, and concerns about materials used were brushed aside by staff, she says.

‘The change of materials [to aluminium] greatly concerned the public art panel (PAP) as they were no longer confident that the original concept could indeed be constructed in a lighter material.’

Cr Hackett says her motion for Council will seek to decommission the work, ask for a report on how the public art panel were locked out of the process and will ‘ask what went wrong, and who in Council signed off and allowed it go ahead.’

The controversial sculpture during the (ahem) erection process. File photo

She adds, ‘The artist arrived two days early to install the work, but Council staff had not organised the proper paperwork for him to have site access at that time.’ More delays were experienced throughout installation, Cr Hackett says, and owing to problems not associated with the artist, it was impossible for him to complete the work on time.

Fellow councillor Paul Spooner echoed the questions raised by Cr Hackett.

He told The Echo they ‘need to be answered and determined before undertaking rectification work.’

He said, ‘Along with most of the community, I was shocked by the unveiling of the roundabout sculpture. It’s clear the installation is not what was expected.

‘A number of questions need to be answered and determined before undertaking rectification work.

‘Which Council staff or councillors were involved in approving the commissioning as resolved by Council in August 2018?

Panel in the dark

‘A subcommittee of the PAP was to oversee the commissioning of the work. It is not clear who was involved, as PAP members seem to be in the dark about it.

‘On what basis was the go-ahead given for the installation of the work? Most people would understand if you order a product and it is not what you agreed to buy then it’s fair it be returned or [you could] at least negotiate another alternative.

‘This leads me to believe that one option would be to decommission the work and recycle the birds and frame so that it may be redesigned into a more acceptable and agreed-upon public artwork.

The location of such a work could be determined at a later time.

‘Finally, the experts appointed to the public art panel need to be involved in all steps of the process, including a follow through of initial acceptance in the commissioning of works.’

Greens comment

When asked if he thinks the art work should be removed, Cr Michael Lyon told The Echo, ‘It is a difficult one for me as though I consider myself a creative problem solver, that’s pretty much where my creativity and artistic ability end’.

‘Ultimately, if the vast majority of our residents do not want the sculpture there, I think we need to take this on the chin and learn from it and move it away from that spot.

‘I do like the idea that has been floated around a potential artwork representing our Indigenous heritage and involving local artists.’

Council  staff were asked for comment; they replied by pointing to Council’s August 23 meeting that approved the work.

Cr Lyon added the ‘roundabout itself is working well and we longer have the issues of traffic trying to leave the industrial estate that had been such an issue.’ That this was completed on time and within budget and is fit for purpose is of much greater concern to me. The cost of the roundabout, if poorly managed, could have blown out by 10-20 times the cost of the sculpture, but it didn’t.’

Council  staff were asked for comment – they replied by pointing to Council’s August 23 meeting, which approved the work.


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36 COMMENTS

  1. As a Byron expat, matters concerning my old home are still important to me. I am astounded that, in a region packed with marvellous artists, this project for an iconic gateway public sculpture was even made open to outsiders.
    Surely a major public artwork would intend to showcase the assets and talent of the region? That such a work, so inappropriate and unrepresentative of the region, was chosen is more case for astonishment.
    I feel for the artist. To have your work become the target of vilification due to bureaucratic blunder must be awful. However, this sculpture does not, in any way, represent the region’s character, and they need to understand the strength of pride locals have for their home.

  2. Why have you put a so called lighthouse sculpture in font of the real view?
    Why did you not use a local artist?
    Why did you use such toxic materials?

  3. Living in Sunrise means I see this structure on a regular basis. My initial reaction/opinion hasn’t changed from whether I like or dislike (happen to dislike) the sculpture is not the issue. The issue is it’s not in my observation representative of the area or culture of Byron Bay. I would much prefer the usual pandanas tree, something that reflects the surf culture, or a bronze sculpture of a whale or preferably a piece from our local indigenous artists. Yes get rid of it. We have a real lighthouse that is now marred by the sculpture

    • I 100% agree with you Sharne – my thoughts exactly in all areas. Maybe some Sandstone, bronze sculpture (like the longboard on the Lennox roundabout – not sure what it’s made of), pandanus would seem much more appropriate. And of course something representing Indigenous culture. I’m still baffled by this every time I drive past.

  4. There is a spot at the top of the hill at the Manse Rd waste depot that would be very suitable. It is next to other scrap metal items such as hills hoists, exercise machines and old star pickets.

  5. One wonders if, during the “approval” process, anyone said: “Nice sketch – how’re you going to build it?”

  6. I think it’s a really good idea to take it down.
    It can be repurposed, by the artist and placed somewhere else in or around Byron. Parts of it are lovely, but the height, materials and location are innapropriate for a busy roundabout.
    It looks too industrial, too phallic and ruins the view of the real iconic lighthouse as viewed while approaching Byron on Ewingsdale road.
    I feel sorry for the artist but it should have been a local artist and judging/approval should be a panel of lical ratepayers, not random councillors.

  7. agree with all of above , its tacky, ugly ,unimaginative, irrelevant and just doesnt work …seriously byrons most easterly edifice is on evertyhing from chilli sauce labels to letter heads…it even looks like it could hurt someone. Please lets be big enough to say ‘we f….ed up ‘and get rid of it.

  8. Placing a ‘work of art’ in the middle of a roundabout on a busy road was never a good idea. Sculptures should be in galleries or parks or places where people can take their time enjoying them. A tree or some landscaping will do fine on the roundabout. I suggest Council remove this sorry piece and sell or auction off each of the aluminium birds to recoup costs. Like pieces of the Berlin Wall, they may one day become collector’s items!

  9. Hopefully with a bit of tinsel it could be next years Christmas tree in Lismore. It would look great. It’s not bad, just out of place. Poor artist.

    • Please Kiz, don’t wish this thing on Lismore.
      We have enough crap street sculpture, The Boat.
      We also already have the ugliest Regional Art Gallery in the country.
      enough is enough.

  10. Errr plant a tree?? They require little maintenance, do not corrode, only get better with age and their “artistic form” is never in question’ I will gladly “install” one for half the budget.

  11. What a snow ball.
    Honestly.

    The Public Art Panel needs to take responsibility for everything.
    This next set up meeting isn’t fair to the Volunteers in the panel, who didn’t have a chance to work on the whole process. Especially in the selection process.

    This is becoming a political shamble before election time. What the hell!!!
    Not the artist or any Cr. Should make any more decisions.

    It is the PAP’s responsibility to engage with the local art community, and not in closed doors with council meetings where the structure is STILL IGNORANT of Public Art Polices and Procedures in the Australian market place. Our Council is still “immature” for taking this kinds of decisions.
    The Panel didn’t say that they were caught in the dark before. I believe that this is because most of the members are Volunteers. Volunteers Members of the panel have always been kept in the dark. Unless these were members of “Richie Rich” preferd Artists club in the region, and they mocked PAP instead of helping. This isn’t healthy for our local Art industry.

    Well there. Whoever played the “know it all” and has no qualification for the PAP job, can now see the shit hit the fan.

    As I said before:
    Sack the unqualified Council staff members from the Public Art Panel.

  12. I’d just like to congratulate whoever laid a turd in the Mullum pool a few days ago, because for one brief shining moment it gave everyone something IMPORTANT to whinge about. It’s an artwork for god’s sake. It’s not the end of the world. Remember when Whitlam bought “Blue Poles” for $1.3 million back in 1973? I do. Australia was outraged. But it’s now considered a masterpiece and possibly worth $100 million. I’m not saying this sculpture is the same league, I’m just saying shut the hell up and find something important to whinge about.

    • Anthony: Here’s something important to whinge about – ROAD SAFETY.

      I am totally opposed to roundabouts or roadside plantations being filled with things that (a) obscure drivers’, riders’, and pedestrians’ views of traffic, (b) distract road users’ attention from the task at hand, and (c) create a hazard for vehicles that go astray (as they do from time to time). Roundabouts and plantations ought to contain nothing that would cause serious injury or damage to any user, or obscure the view for road users.

      Function should determine form, and that’s certainly not the case for over-decorated roundabouts. On the other hand, a low bed of flowers – petunias, for example – would be decorative enough without being a hazard.

      Regardless the artistic merits (or in this case suspected lack of same), the phallus needs to go – perhaps up the derrières of the people who commissioned and approved it.

  13. Apart from the displeasing artistic elements like design…size…materials…suitability etc.
    it is also aesthetically displeasing the way the sculpture is partially mask by traffic signs
    from all directions! It seems the whole thing had been executed quite carelessly and thoughtlessly.
    Why we needed a sculpture there in the first place is beyond me. What a waste of money!!

  14. The most obvious reason to remove it as far as I can see, is that it is a distraction for drivers who need to be attending to negotiating the roundabout………not admiring , or not , works of art. …..Not very well thought out . Maybe there is somewhere less dangerous for it to be placed.

  15. Agree with Linda and move it elsewhere.
    There’s a number of issues:
    1. Consultation Process – What process!
    2. Artist – Given the state of arts funding for regional artists using a city based artist is utterly incorrigible.
    3. Materials – Xmas tree tinsel glamour of cheap material.
    4. Aesethic cohesion – In planning there may have been, in reality it’s a nightmare. I can see the vision, it just didn’t work. Driving toward the sculpture the birds are not individually discernible. They merge into this amorphous glittering phallic shaped mess. It destroys the iconic view of the lighthouse, not enhances.
    5. Position – On a busy roundabout? Nowhere to actually stand and view it as one does not see the detail while driving.
    6. Safety – One hopes it never happens but all those sharp angles on a roundabout seems a disaster waiting to happen. How long till some cyclist is accidently forced off the road into it, or a car plows into it.
    I can see the headlines now
    ‘Accident caused by driver blinded by reflection from aluminium phallic statue, and loses child pierced through heart by sculpture bird’.

  16. Would love to take this piece and nestle it
    in next bamboo on our 100 acres. It would very very very welcome! Please don’t destroy it!
    Offer it up for adoption!

  17. It would be great if it could be removed. I would have like to see a local artist being used for our public art. We have wonderful sculptures every year being created for the Brunswick heads sculpture walk… why did council not purchase one of these to add to the space.. or use the winning sculpture??
    Or… simply adding a nice tree… it’s not rocket science ..

  18. Firstly, as a visual artist I feel for the designer of this piece. I quite liked the concept drawing…all sort of ethereal with that negative space & the birds swirling around it.
    It certainly didn’t turn out like that! Unfortunately a fail from concept to execution.
    What a shame.
    I like the idea of dismantling it. Find another location for it. Or adapt it. Or recycle it.
    I also think a sculpture or feature at that location is unnecessary. (True it’s a distraction to drivers!)
    The real lighthouse should be the focal point of the entry into Byron.
    Some natural landscaping is the answer….preferably tall spreading trees that will grow to shade the roundabout and frame the long view past their trunks.
    That would represent Byron….the climate, the landscape, the sea.
    Now that would be a welcome sight!

  19. Get rid and replace with huge standing stones and Pandana and / or Palms. It is an eyesore and a distraction on a roundabout where drivers need to concentrate on driving.

  20. I drive past it everyday …I`ve tried hard to see something/anything from an art perspective. Arhhh !!!! …Its a shocker !!!. It`s gotta go… Sell it off to someone who likes it and try to get some dollars back to reinvest into the strained/broken Byron Shire`s infrastructure.

  21. After what we’ve watched happen to Byron Bay over the past twenty years (without a word of complaint), I don’t understand why we’d object to a thought provoking piece of art which harms nobody.
    Has anybody noticed what’s happening next door to Woolworths, and thought about the likely consequences?

  22. Contrary to most Negative feedback about this fantastic Sculpture I would like to congratulate the Artist on producing an Original, Thought Provoking Masterpiece there’s always going to be knockers and trolls out there with their opinions and this will do indeed.

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