REWIND: From The Australian, October 2, 1999
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.