In the red over yellow foil

FREMANTLE council is paying the price for loving the city’s colourful ellipse artwork too long.

Swiss artist Felice Varini’s Arc d’Ellipses was the centrepiece of the High Tide arts festival in October last year and a great marketing success for the city, but the yellow foil was only meant to be stuck to buildings along High Street for a couple of months.

Ten months later and the foil’s glue has become noticeably stickier, peeling the paintwork off some heritage-listed buildings in the West End.

Quotes for the removal of the foil and repair of any damage have all come in over $150,000, forcing the council into a further delay while it goes through a competitive tendering process. That’s being run by the city’s engineers, who’ve taken over responsibility for the clean-up from the arts department.

The council’s infrastructure director Graham Tattersall says all buildings will be cleaned and returned to their original condition.

“Our priority is to ensure the foil comes off without impact on the buildings and so it’s important we are able to define and manage the most suitable solution that considers each building’s individual characteristics,” Mr Tattersall said.

The foil has reacted slightly differently to each building, which Mr Tattersall said made the original quotes hard to judge and a tender process would be more structured.

“On reflection, we felt the scope was probably too broad, and posed potential ambiguity and risk for contractors,” he said.

• Harris Architects team Zachary Wood, Jono Harris and Rhys Jenkins with High Tide curator Tom Muller, who say artist Felice Varini’s Arc d’Ellipses was a great success for Fremantle despite a hiccup with its removal. Photo by Steve Grant

The council’s media manager Paul Dunlop said most building owners were supportive of the Ellipses and there were only a couple who’d arced up over their paintwork.

One of those is Shane Braddock, who’s written to local government minister David Templeman to complain about the stuff-up.

Mr Braddock told the Herald while the artwork had looked great, the cost of its installation and removal was not good value for the city.

“That’s just money pissed in the wind,” he said.

Mr Braddock reckons businesses up High Street wouldn’t have sold much more than the odd cup of coffee to viewers, as most had come down outside office hours.

But High Tide curator Tom Muller, who’d volunteered his time pulling the festival together, says the international exposure for Fremantle made Arc d’Ellipses a great success despite the extra clean-up costs.

Mr Muller said it was hard to put a value on the thousands of Instagram photos featuring a Freo hashtag, but overall the complete cost of installation and removal (around $300,000) was good value for a project of its scale. He said it had helped activate the West End for nearly a year.

Mr Muller says it was also important the council sometimes took risks with public art, otherwise it could end up with a bland portfolio that didn’t get people talking or interested.

He was backed by the team at Harris Architects, who participated in High Tide with an installation near the Round House and whose offices have some of the yellow foil.

Architect Rhys Jenkins said the Arc made it easy for him to direct visitors into Fremantle, providing the city with a focus.

by STEVE GRANT

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