An ex­panse of pris­tine land on Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula be­comes home to an in­tox­i­cat­ing cu­ra­tion of art

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If the holy trin­ity of cul­tural tourism is now mon­u­men­tal art, mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture and Miche­lin-stan­dard hos­pi­tal­ity had among the vines — as per MONA in Tassie and Château La Coste in Provence — then Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula can de­clare it­self Aus­tralia’s de­vo­tional cen­tre. The re­gion’s wor­ship of fer­mented grapes and fine art is fore­warned by a free­way ap­proach that scat­ters pub­lic sculp­ture com­mis­sions along its verge — lo­cal artist Cal­lum Mor­ton’s shrunken Ho­tel (2008) still be­muses drivers seek­ing a bed — and is val­i­dated by the 200-plus pre­mium vine­yards, sev­eral with sculp­ture parks, pep­per­ing its coast. But noth­ing pre­pares you for, or com­pares to, the newly opened Point Leo Es­tate, a 135-hectare ‘legacy project’ that sites 50 large-scale con­tem­po­rary sculp­tures by a who’s who of home­grown and off­shore tal­ent in a vine-dot­ted es­tate with dra­matic views to West­ern Port Bay. Owned by Pauline and John Gan­del, bil­lion­aire bene­fac­tors who built an em­pire on the back of vi­sion­ary re­tail — Chad­stone Shop­ping Cen­tre pi­o­neered ‘ex­pe­ri­en­tial shop­ping’ decades be­fore fu­tur­ists flagged its worth — this open-to-the-pub­lic he­do­nists’ heaven has been 20 years in the mak­ing but seeds from a life­time of phi­lan­thropy. “This is phe­nom­e­nal, with­out peer… and what a plum role,” says Ge­of­frey Ed­wards, the for­mer di­rec­tor of the Gee­long Gallery and for­mer head of sculp­ture at the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria, who was ap­proached by the Gan­dels more than a year ago to cu­rate their col­lec­tion into a coastal park that sated all senses. “There is the dis­tinc­tive­ness of lo­ca­tion hosted by pa­trons that are just divine to work for. They are so re­spect­ful and so pas­sion­ate about this part of the world and cre­at­ing some­thing so gen­uine that can be en­joyed by the peo­ple of Vic­to­ria, the peo­ple of Aus­tralia and be­yond.” Speak­ing from in­side the es­tate’s cel­lar-door com­plex — a qui­etly ex­pres­sive hill­top struc­ture de­signed by Mel­bourne ar­chi­tect Stephen Jol­son to drink in the drama of its con­text — the dap­per Ed­wards com­mends “the nicely re­strained ar­chi­tec­ture” for its ma­te­rial re­flec­tion of re­gion and sen­si­tiv­ity to a sur­round­ing mix of strong sig­na­tures. Its cir­cu­lar-planned struc­ture bal­loons out on the bay­side, with a curved wall of glass cre­at­ing a ma­jes­tic dis­play of outer sculp­tures that seem­ingly march off into sea and sky. On its con­cave en­try side, en­velop­ing con­crete walls were formed to ab­stract the flow of wine from a bot­tle and to frame artist Inge King’s im­pe­ri­ous Grand Arch (2011), a mod­ernist sweep of painted steel that sig­ni­fies the gate­way to good food, by for­mer Rock­pool ex­ec­u­tive chef Phil Wood, and cool-cli­mate wine made ex­clu­sively from sur­round­ing vines. “I sug­gest that it is destined to be­come one of the es­tate’s most pho­tographed works,” says Ed­wards of King’s tri­umphal arch. “But then there is no short­age of vis­tas and sculp­tures to en­cour­age the tak­ing of the ubiq­ui­tous selfie.” In­form­ing that the park is in­ter­na­tional in its as­pi­ra­tions and scope, Ed­wards leads a tour into a land­scape “sculpted from scratch” by de­sign stu­dio Has­sell with the words, “I think this will be a rev­e­la­tion.” He takes the first of two snaking paths — one is mea­sured for the 40-minute en­gage­ment with art; the other for a more im­mer­sive 90 min­utes — and makes an ob­ser­va­tion about the need to “ad­just the bear­ings on the great Ge­orge Rickey”, the up-front, wind-re­spon­sive steel sculp­ture Four Lines Up Oblique V (1977) that was en­gi­neered by the Amer­i­can fa­ther of ki­netic art. It tes­ti­fies to the mu­seum-like cal­i­bre of work that will be en­coun­tered on loop­ing paths planned for the quick dash back to the cel­lar door to savour another drop of the es­tate’s sin­gle vine­yard chardon­nay or Shi­raz. ››

‹‹ “Ev­ery sin­gle work, ev­ery sin­gle place­ment, has had Mr and Mrs Gan­del’s per­sonal in­ten­tion,” says Ed­wards, spin­ning the back­sto­ries for Michael Le Grand’s glossy blue steel Tsunami (1988), Bri­tish sculp­tor Tony Cragg’s rhyth­mic, ris­ing bronze pil­lar Luke (2008), Cle­ment Mead­more’s jazz-in­spired Riffffff (1996) and Span­ish artist Jaume Plensa’s mono­lithic, cast-iron head Laura Asia (2016). “But it’s not meant to be en­cy­clo­pe­dic; we’re not try­ing to do the A to Z of ev­ery name. We want to show the mix of dis­ci­plines and im­part a sense of the col­lec­tor’s per­sona.” On cue, Pauline Gan­del speeds down the path in a buggy built for golf and re­gales Ed­wards with an im­age of Swiss artist Ugo Rondi­none’s Sun­rise East March (2007). “We need some ugly,” she says, jus­ti­fy­ing the hulk of an amor­phous metal head with ter­ri­fy­ing teeth. “A bit of wack­i­ness will work over there.” Ed­wards calls this a mo­men­tary in­sight into a col­lect­ing in­tel­li­gence that knows “beauty needs the Brueghel peas­ant to make it shine — how ut­terly bril­liant!”

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