A LOCAL artist has lost a $30,000 commission after Vincent city councillors changed their mind and decided to instead purchase a $60,000 piece by prominent Chinese sculptor Chen Wen Ling.
Perth sculptor Matt McVeigh had been asked to create a colourful abstract piece, based on a concept design.
He was paid $5000 in advance but ran into problems making the piece sturdy enough. The council didn’t like redesigned solutions he came up with.
The first he heard of his sacking was when the Voice called. He didn’t want to comment before learning more.
“It was a very stock-standard piece of municipal art and we’re trying to do something a bit better,” mayor Alannah MacTiernan said.
She and Cr John Carey had been struck by Chen’s piece, Games, displayed at Cottesloe’s Sculpture by the Sea, and won council support to shell out $59,800 for it.
A council report says the Chinese artist is amongst the world’s top 10 contemporary sculptors and buying the 190cm bronze “would be a significant coup” for Vincent.
Cr Dudley Maier was the only elected member to oppose the decision.
“I had three issues with it,” he told the Voice.
“First of all I thought [McVeigh’s] revised plan was quite good and acceptable.
“Secondly, I thought we should be supporting local artists.
“And thirdly, we had a budget for the work and this is massively blowing out the budget.”
Cr Carey says, “we do support a lot of local artists, but like everything we have a mix: We support local, national and international.
“You can look at our arts acquisition program, our wall mural program, our festival program. We do support local artists.”
He says the council should buy works that get people talking and which liven up the streets.
Ms MacTiernan points out the Beseech big blue head, sitting out the front of the council HQ, was done by local sculptor Ken Sealey.
The unbudgeted $34,800 is to come, “from a source to be identified by the CEO”.
‘If you made a mistake then you should wear it. These guys should have done their homework’ Cr Dudley Maier
WITH two public art projects blowing out by a combined $73,000, Vincent mayor Alannah MacTiernan wants her council to tighten its rules.
She and Cr John Carey were principally behind one of the blowouts, convincing the council to spend $60,000 on a sculpture, when it had earlier budgeted $30,000 for a different piece.
The other blowout was $38,000 in unanticipated concrete costs for a tendered Beaufort Street project.
Cr Dudley Maier opposed both blowouts. He says Bremick, the company that won the tender to erect the Beaufort Stre letters, should wear any extra costs, not ratepayers.
“This isn’t a starving naive artist that’s holed up in some garret who doesn’t know what they’re doing,” he told the Voice.
“It is Bremick: They’re in the shop fit-out trade. They do project management and they know the game.
“They put in the tender, they signed a contract as such saying they could deliver it for just under $100,000.
“For them to come back and say ‘we need more money’, I think ‘no, you put in a bid, this is your normal game’.
Bremick director Brett Young said that during months of consultation, including with the council, the scale of the project grew to “a significant structure over 20 metres long and two metres high”.
He said they tried to get big builders to contribute to the cost, but none were interested. His own company poured hours of design and engineering into the project gratis.
Developers of big projects must spend one per cent of the project’s cost on public art, but councillors are questioning whether they’re getting value for money.
Ms MacTiernan wants projects more defined before money is spent: “There does have to be increasing professionalism,” she says. “You can’t tender a project and then say ‘I can’t build it for that cost’ or ‘I can’t build it because it’ll fall apart’. We are going to have to be a bit more on their case in terms of tying them down about these things before we award them costings.”
Stories by DAVID BELL