Artist: Tracey Emin
Curator: Barbara Flynn
Bridge Street to Macquarie Place Park, Sydney
Project: City Centre Public Art Program

Macquarie Pl to Loftus St, SYDNEY, 2000

Artwork Description

As my artwork I would like to make a counter site in Sydney for the young, the old, the backpackers, the tourists and the businessmen and women; somewhere else they can have their image taken to send back to the loved ones that they miss, that conveys the feelings of distance and homesickness.

– Tracey Emin, 2014

At the city’s northern end on Bridge and Grosvenor streets and through the refurbished Kent Street underpass, The Distance of Your Heart features more than 60 delicate handmade bronze bird sculptures, designed by acclaimed British artist Tracey Emin. The bird sculptures perch on poles, above doorways and on awnings, enticing walkers along the thoroughfare.

Emin describes her work for Sydney as, ‘simple, straightforward and accessible to everybody’. The work is handmade by Emin with each bird life size, the opposite of monumental and overpowering.

In conceiving of a work for Sydney, Emin wanted to address Australia’s distance from the rest of the world. The question she asked herself was, ‘How does one express the feeling of loneliness without words?’ Her answer was, in the form of a bird – lonely, modest in scale in the way birds are, and thoughtful-looking.

The words “The distance of your heart” are inscribed on a large stone bird bath in Macquarie Place Park. Emin sees this as a place to be photographed, to let the people you love know you are missing them. She believes in today’s age of technology it is easy to send an image of where you are and what you are doing but it is very hard to send a message of how you are actually feeling.

Emin chose Macquarie Place because this is the site of the Obelisk of Distances designed by Francis Greenway from which the distance to various locations in New South Wales are measured, along the earliest roads developed in the colony. She saw this as “…the perfect site to measure the distance of my heart”

Like a treasure hunt comprised of scattered elements associated with the thrill of discovery, Emin’s work of art is one both adults and children will love.


In 2007 Emin represented Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale, becoming the second woman artist to ever do so. That same year, Emin was made a Royal Academician and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art, a Doctor of Letters from the University of Kent and a Doctor of Philosophy from London Metropolitan University.

Tracey Emin was born in Croydon, United Kingdom and lives and works in London. Her art is one of disclosure, using her life events as inspiration for works ranging from painting, drawing, video and installation, to photography, needlework and sculpture. Emin reveals her hopes, humiliations, failures and successes in candid and, at times, excoriating work that is frequently both tragic and humorous.

In 2011 she became the Royal Academy’s Professor of Drawing and in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II appointed her Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the visual arts.

City Centre Public Art Program

The City Centre Public Art Plan launched in June 2013 is part of the City of Sydney’s $220 million contribution to the NSW Government’s light rail project.

This project will transform the city with major public domain upgrades, including new infrastructure and the pedestrianisation of George Street.

New public art created under this plan will enhance our city’s well-known features, highlight those places most important to people, and magnify the ideas that founded the city.

This plan, prepared by Curatorial Advisor Barbara Flynn, aims to contribute to the legacy of permanent public art works and also to support events and temporary works of art, bringing a focus, distinction and richness to Sydney’s prime civic spaces.

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