Taking stories as old as time to a contemporary setting in the heart of Sydney
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Taking stories as old as time to a contemporary setting in the heart of Sydney

It’s a part of Sydney traditionally associated with Australia’s colonial past, but a cultural shift signals a more layered approach to history through public art

By Robyn Willis
Mon, Jun 5, 2023 10:11amGrey Clock 3 min

If Sydney is Australia’s premier destination, then Circular Quay is the gateway to the Emerald City. Best known for its access to the harbour, with the Sydney Opera House on one peninsular and the sandstone terraces of The Rocks on the other, it’s a hotspot for tourists and history buffs alike.

Unless, of course, your notion of history extends beyond the past 250 years.

In recent years, there’s been a move to reflect a more layered notion of the past that better reflects First Nations’ stories – a history that stretches back thousands of years. As this part of the city undergoes yet another renewal process, developers have taken the opportunity to engage with Indigenous artists to integrate stories that are thousands of years old into some of the newest buildings.

The latest edition are art installations that form part of Sydney Place, a new casual dining precinct connecting Pitt and George Streets near Circular Quay.

Following on from his success at the Venice Biennale, Indigenous artist Daniel Boyd was invited to create an interactive art installation as an entry point to the dining space at Sydney Place. Working with architect David Adjaye, Boyd has designed a soaring steel canopy on the George Street frontage featuring a roof punctuated with round holes to reflect the constellations of the night sky.

The art installation by Daniel Boyd reflects the night sky

The full extent of Indigenous understanding of astronomy is only just beginning to be revealed but the artwork stands as a reminder that even in the centre of the CBD, there are larger forces at play.

“I was trying to create a building and space that wasn’t static and trying to use light to take the building into motion,” Boyd said. “It’s macro and micro at the same time, understanding that point in time and space.”  

Boyd said the notion of layering histories over such a built-up site was one to be welcomed.

“It’s about acknowledging the history of the site in a more inclusive and equitable way,” Boyd said. “These opportunities to open spaces give First Nations people the chance to feel comfortable. 

“They don’t have to grapple with the language of the built environment because it’s an open space that invites layers of association.”

Kamilaroi man Dennis Golding and fellow artist Louise Zhang also created work for Sydney Place in a collaboration using neon lights combined with traditional Chinese and Indigenous motifs.

Golding said both he and Zhang drew on their family experiences as migrants – Zhang’s from China and Golding’s from Gamilaroi and Biripi country – to create an artwork in the heart of Sydney.

This artwork in Sydney Place is a collaboration between Dennis Golding and Louise Zhang

“My family moved to Redfern for affordable housing, work opportunities and education and that’s where that community grew from the late 60s as families moved into the city,” Golding said. “We all worked on the rails. It’s that shared experience of being from somewhere else and coming to Sydney for work.”

The latest works in Sydney Place are part of the growing Indigenous art presence, which includes five integrated artworks Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi man Jonathan Jones created for the nearby Quay Quarter Lanes redevelopment, as well as the bara, or fish hook sculpture, by Judy Watson on the Tarpeian Precinct Lawn on the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Tarpeian Way, Royal Botanic Gardens features bara by Judy Watson. This public artwork is part of the Eora Journey. Photo: Chris Southwood/City of Sydney

Curated by Hetti Perkins, bara is part of City of Sydney’s Eora Journey, and is designed to offer greater recognition of Indigenous culture and heritage.

It follows an international review of cultural interpretation undertaken by Perkins and architect Julie Cracknell in 2010. Public art is one of four components of the Eora Journey, which also includes access to education and employment and training opportunities.


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The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

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