REWIND: From The Aus­tralian, Oc­to­ber 2, 1999

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines -

A FLIGHT of pigs has landed in Run­dle Mall, Ade­laide’s premier shop­ping strip. Don’t laugh; this is se­ri­ous, as in art spon­sored by the Ade­laide City Coun­cil.

The life-size bronze pork­ers, one of them nuz­zling rub­bish, are by NSW artist Mar­guerite Der­ri­court and are part of the coun­cil’s prob­lem­atic love af­fair with art in pub­lic places, es­pe­cially art that uses bronze.

The af­fair goes back a long way, more than a cen­tury, and has mostly been re­morse­lessly se­ri­ous. Many of the city’s lead­ing cit­i­zens, his­tory fig­ures, heroes and for­eign mon­archs are im­mor­talised, as they used to say, in this way. No other Aus­tralian cap­i­tal city has such a pen­chant for crown­ing pedestals with the dis­em­bod­ied heads, cloven busts or posed fig­ures of its high achiev­ers.

Now they are joined by four pigs, as a bit of fun, we are told, that cost $72,000.

The city fathers and moth­ers have a fine sense of the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial fit­ness of things: they re­cently de­cided they were pre­pared to spend only $20,000 on a memo­rial to for­mer premier Don Dun­stan.

Grave­side mon­u­ments aside, it seems the first piece of pub­lic art to arrive in Ade­laide came in 1887 and hon­oured not a civic dig­ni­tary but a fire­man, one J.A.H. Gard­ner. He died fight­ing a fire, and for his trou­ble got a drink­ing foun­tain be­neath a groin-vaulted mar­ble canopy and col­umns.

This seems to have opened the flood­gates.

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