Artwork Description

Lachlan Macquarie and his wife governed in Sydney from 1810 to 1821. They arrived with a pattern book for buildings in the Neo-Classical style and a desire to transform the colony. This part of the harbour foreshore was landscaped in the Picturesque manner fashionable in Britain at that time. A sketch from the period indicates that Mrs Macquarie had a folly constructed.

Folly for Mrs Macquarie by Fiona Hall is a contemporary `folly’ drawing upon historical, geographic and cultural aspects of the time and rule of Governor Macquarie and his wife, Elizabeth. Located in front of the grounds of Government House looking over to Mrs Macquarie’s Point and through to the heads of the Harbour, the artwork implies an element of folly in the optimistic act of superimposing old world traditions onto foreign surroundings.

Lachlan Macquarie governed in Sydney from 1810 to 1821. He and his wife arrived with a pattern-book for buildings in the Neo-Classical style and a desire to transform the colony. A sketch from the period indicates that Mrs Macquarie had a folly constructed.

The design elements of the artwork echo those early aspirations but also remind us that there was much folly in the way Britain colonised Australia. The domed roof of Norfolk Island pine fronds, for example, refers to the colonists’ regard for the tree. However the brittle timber of the pines dashed hopes that it would make excellent ships’ masts.

Formal elements are expressed in the neo-classical gothic style favoured by the Macquaries and include a range of references – indigenous and introduced plant species, early colonial tools, the clasped dagger from Macquarie’s crest and fencing. The false ceiling represents interlocking animal bones of native species which would once have inhabited the site, while the structure of the Gothic windows represents the barbed wire that divided up the land. Sunken seating provides a place to pause, sit and contemplate the views over the Harbour.

Artist

Fiona Hall is a prominent artist based in Adelaide, South Australia. She works in photography, sculpture, painting, installation, garden design and video. Hall’s choice of material, and the way she uses it, is critical to her art. She deliberately transforms ordinary everyday objects to address a range of contemporary issues such as globalisation, consumerism, colonialism and natural history. The core theme throughout Hall’s work is the relationship between nature and culture.

SYDNEY SCULPTURE WALK PLAQUE

A Folly for Mrs Macquarie / Fiona Hall / Lachlan Macquarie and his wife governed in Sydney from 1810 to 1821. They arrived with a pattern book for / buildings in the Neo-Classical style and a desire to transform the colony. This part of the harbour foreshore / was landscaped in the Picturesque manner fashionable in Britain at that time. A sketch from the period indi- / cates that Mrs Macquarie had a folly constructed. / The design elements of the folly echo those early aspirations for the colony, but are also mindful that there / was much folly in the way in which Britain chose to colonise Australia. The domed roof of Norfolk Island pine / fronds for example refers to the colonists’ regard for this tree (Mrs Macquarie presided over the planting of / one near here in 1816 which became known as the wishing tree). However the pine’s brittle timber dashed / hopes that it would make excellent ship masts. The bone ceiling refers to animals which once lived in this / area, and the Gothic Windows represent the barbed wire used to claim and divide up the land. / The finial is from the Macquarie family crest while the folly floor indicates the direction of Britain from this site. / Installed: October 2000

Sydney Sculpture Walk

The Sydney Sculpture Walk was a major City of Sydney initiative for the 2000 Olympics and the 2001 Centenary of Federation, curated by Sally Coucaud.

Ten artworks were commissioned from leading Australian and international artists to form a circuit through the city from the Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens, through East Circular Quay and the city streets to Martin Place.

Each artwork was site-specific, addressing the historical and cultural aspects of its location and contributing to an appreciation and understanding of the city’s environment, history and character.

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