John Kaldor AO,
Kaldor Art Projects

Sydney is Our Canvas

This beautiful city has given us wonderful opportunities. We have witnessed and endeavoured to play our role in making Sydney a global, welcoming, connected city for over 47 years. From the iconic coast to the very heart, we have connected the world’s leading artists to this city.

Kaldor Public Art Projects is a small not-for-profit organisation and is partnership driven; our projects are developed through collaborations both nationally and internationally. They have no fixed location or timing, which give us the flexibility to explore unusual public sites that bring contemporary art into the everyday. From our very first project—Christo and Jeanne-Claude for Wrapped Coast, Little Bay, 1969, that saw 2.5km of Sydney’s coastline wrapped in billowing fabric—our mission has been to open the eyes of the public to the wonders of art. To engage and educate young and old and bring communities together in celebration of how art enriches our society.

Wrapped Coast is an example of the perfect relationship between place and artistic vision. Christo and Jeanne-Claude knew of Sydney’s world-renowned coastlines and this inspired them to propose the first Kaldor Public Art Project. They knew that their concept would have had few opportunities to be realised anywhere else. By achieving it here in Sydney, we not only helped create an extraordinary new experience for Sydneysiders, but we took our city to the world. This artwork became the iconic artists’ first major artwork in the landscape and the first major contemporary public art project of its kind anywhere in the world. Documentation and drawings from this ground breaking project have been exhibited in international museums from the time of the work’s creation and, in 2017, works from Wrapped Coast will be exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington.

Kaldor Public Art Projects are constantly searching for locations that will inspire leading artists to create new works that will make an impact locally and resonate internationally. From coastlines to islands, churches, brick kilns, wharves, gardens and modernist architecture, many of the projects we premiered in Sydney have gone on to be exhibited internationally. Richard Long’s A straight hundred mile walk in Australia, 1977, was shown at Tate Britain on the occasion of Long’s retrospective in 2009. Jeff Koons’s lovable Puppy, built for our 10th project in 1995 at Circular Quay, now stands proudly in front of the Guggenheim in Bilbao in Spain. Gregor Schneider’s 21 Beach Cells, created first for Bondi Beach, was shown on Accadia Beach in Herzliya, Israel. More recently, John Baldessari’s Your Name In Lights, created for the rooftop of the Australian Museum in 2011, was the highlight of the Holland Festival at the Stedelijk Museum later that year, and was chosen to launch the new Monnaie de Paris in 2014. It is the ongoing connections and intersections between Australia and the international art world that has always been our core mission—our contributing to Sydney as a global cultural city.

As the City is expanding and skyscrapers dominate our skyline, it is essential to preserve and create spaces for art where temporary projects can take place. Too many of our wharfs and warehouses are being converted, losing the heritage of the city and making empty space difficult to find. An example of this is the staging of two of our most successful projects at Pier 2/3 at Walsh Bay. In 2013, we transformed the Pier to exhibit 13 Rooms, first shown at Manchester Festival in 2011 and expanded and adapted for Sydney. The Rooms project has been shown worldwide: at Ruhrtriennale, Germany in 2012, Art Basel, Switzerland in 2014 and at the Long Museum, China in 2015.

We also welcomed Marina Abramović and her team to the Pier in 2015, transforming the vast spaces into a major exhibition and studio where she mentored both the public and emerging performance artists. Abramović has since used the concepts and architecture we created for her in her overseas presentations. The raw space of Pier 2/3 was a dramatic setting for these projects and so many other Biennales and exhibitions before them. I hope that the newly refurbished exhibition space in the Pier, although reduced in scale, will still remain versatile for future projects. While the Pier created a unique environment, a newer space with great possibilities is the enormous Cutaway at Barangaroo. It is wonderful to see a raw space like this dedicated to culture and events. Working collaboratively has helped us to increase the impact of our projects on the city. In the past we have engaged with many of the cultural organisations across Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, Sydney Festival, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, The Royal Botanic Garden, City of Sydney, Australian Museum and The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, to name a few. Last year we worked with Carriageworks to realise a new experimental work by French choreographer, Xavier Le Roy, which premiered in Sydney and was later shown at Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2016. This contemporary art/dance project reflected the spirit of the 21st century, where the boundaries between art forms have fallen away and artists are freed from such restrictions. Carriageworks is a wonderful space of experimentation and creative invention and they show the future possibilities for art.

For several years now, art education has formed an integral part of each project we present. We partner and collaborate with all of Sydney’s major universities and with primary and secondary schools across the state. We produce innovative education materials and resources that expand on the concepts of the projects both in print and online. We have also delivered many successful mentoring programs for arts graduates and our internship program has provided career skills to many young professionals who have gone on to successful careers.

Our hope is that education will help break down any perception that art is elitist. We celebrate sporting heroes yet cultural ones receive scant recognition. Today all our cultural organisations have well developed educational programs, whether it is the Opera House, the Art Gallery of NSW or Campbelltown Arts Centre. I hope in the future the thousands of children that participate in these programs will celebrate art as much anyone before them admired Australia’s sporting heroes.

As we move towards our 50th anniversary of projects in 2019, we see a city that has evolved to be dramatically different from the time of our first project. Sydney has grown into a multi-cultural city, able to draw on the heritage of so many diverse cultures and new energies.

Kaldor Public Art Project 01: Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrapped Coast—One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, 1968–69. This installation saw 2.5 km of Sydney’s coastline wrapped in billowing fabric. Photo credit: Harry Shunk

To build our future, we must also embrace our past. Not only the recent 200 years, but the 40,000+ that preceded it, and celebrate Aboriginal culture as a central part of the unique portrait that will become the international image of Sydney. As a global city, this is what will make us unique.

We are blessed with a magnificent natural position, a great advantage. But this is not enough today. What makes a city global, great and connected is the calibre of the people who live and work there. Not the buildings. Art and culture play a vital role in making our lives fulfilled. If you look around us, to Singapore and Hong Kong, art and culture is emphasised to attract the best talent internationally. But we can also look locally and see the impact that MONA has had on the economy of Tasmania, transforming Hobart into a vibrant city and an international destination. We must play a dual role as a global city. We must face outwards to the world but also inwards to regional Australia, supporting it to be part of an expanding cultural landscape.

If we succeed in creating a city of great art and culture, it will become our heritage, forming the collective memory of future generations.