From the

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Gallery - Tim Dou­glas

Forty-five years ago to­day, Queen El­iz­a­beth II cut the rib­bon on the Syd­ney Opera House, open­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural won­der to the world. Even be­fore it was com­pleted, of course, the house was a cul­tural bat­tle­ground, and the story of how its ar­chi­tect Jorn Ut­zon re­signed from the project af­ter a se­ries of con­flicts with the gov­ern­ment needs no retelling. In re­cent weeks it has be­come the site of a new front in the cul­ture wars be­tween ad­ver­tis­ing and a place many con­sider sacro­sanct. But while the pub­lic’s gaze is for­ever fix­ated on the sails that hang over Syd­ney Har­bour, there is an­other story — there are, in fact, hun­dreds of them — scrawled on the walls of the tun­nels that link the grand shells of Syd­ney. To­day, Greg Bearup, with pho­tog­ra­pher Hol­lie Adams, hops into a safety har­ness and en­joys a rare priv­i­lege: climb­ing one of the mod­ern won­ders of the world. Along the way he en­coun­ters the scrawls of the work­ers who built it, and tracks down some work­ers, and an ar­chi­tect, who spent years on the project. The sense of pride among them is pal­pa­ble. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Louise Her­ron, who so de­fi­antly stood her ground this month over the ad­ver­tis­ing is­sue, should be com­mended. Her re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion plan to take the house into the fu­ture is well un­der way, and her stew­ard­ship of the in­sti­tu­tion is held broadly in high es­teem. On the house’s birth­day, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing it re­ally is a most beloved in­sti­tu­tion. Last week I met Perth Fes­ti­val artis­tic di­rec­tor Wendy Martin, who be­tween 2000 and 2011 was the SOH di­rec­tor of theatre and dance, and whose fa­ther spent 24 years at the in­sti­tu­tion — 19 of them as gen­eral man­ager. When he died in 2005, the lights that nightly out­line the sails were turned off in hon­our of its longest­serv­ing chief. There was more to the trib­ute than met the eye. Martin re­counted a con­ver­sa­tion her fa­ther had with the build­ing’s ar­chi­tect, which had been drummed into her from child­hood. “Jorn Ut­zon told my fa­ther that the Opera House should only ever be il­lu­mi­nated as if by the moon.” In­ter­est­ing. Fans of Philip Roth and Sal­man Rushdie should turn to pages 8 and 9, where the lat­ter eu­lo­gises the for­mer. Mag­nif­i­cent writ­ing by a mag­nif­i­cent writer on a mag­nif­i­cent writer. Join Tim Dou­glas for a pri­vate tour through David Gold­blatt’s ex­hi­bi­tion at the MCA Syd­ney | Wed 24 Oct | $25

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