On the Mornington Peninsula, investment in outdoor art guides us from Melbourne’s urban grey to fields of green and ocean blue. Once upon a time, a sculpture was the thing you backed into when admiring the 'real art' on the wall. How things have changed. Sculptors have now become the darlings of the affluent art collector. Baillieu Myer AC says they are worth supporting as ‘they work harder for their money than any other visual artists.’ Today sculpture has changed the Mornington Peninsula landscape, and the growing number has helped cement this region’s claim as Australia's capital of outdoor art.
Driving along Eastlink, Perth businesswoman and arts benefactor, Janet Holmes a Court has made a lasting statement with a multi-million-dollar collection of public artworks that includes Emily Floyd’s landmark sculpture of a gigantic bird pecking at a yellow block. This always sparks debate on family trips to the beach. “That’s a chip,” says someone. “No, it’s a worm!" chip/worm/chip/worm… Backseat critics aside, the work brings spontaneous appreciation for its size and originality.
For the roving adventurous, a visit to the outdoor gallery at McClelland Sculpture Park gives an opportunity to explore great art in the wild. This collection is largely the legacy of the philanthropist, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch AC DBE who helped create the major outdoor sculpture collection within an Australian landscape. McClelland features work like Phil Price's kinetic Tree of Life alongside many other notables and is Australia’s largest all year sculpture exhibition, often with over one-hundred artists displayed throughout the bush setting. The inside gallery sees the most prized piece, Ron Mueck’s, Wild Man, a three-metre giant who sits butt-naked and gripped in existential fear. Big and imposing, this bloke would attract controversy wherever he sat in the world.
Down the road in Moorooduc, the Kirby family (of Village Roadshow fame) have set an array of large modern sculpture on the grounds of their Yabby Lake Vineyard. Save our Souls, is a towering bamboo structure by Cave Urban alongside a colourful mosaic by Deborah Halpern. Voyager features a boat laden with heads that stare comically through the Cellar Door windows.
Another of Halpern’s mosaics, Wild One rears up to split the canopy of Tony Hancy's biodynamic vineyard at Prancing Horse Estate. Across from the cellar door, Hancy has commissioned a herd of tin cows that graze in a side paddock. And in the cottage garden, Blue Trees, an environmental art installation by Konstantin Dimopoulos Is a poignant reminder of the fragility of our natural surroundings.
On his family property in Merricks, Baillieu Myer AC has spent a lifetime accumulating a superb collection of major works by many of the nation's finest sculptors. Today, the biggest names in Australian art surround his Elgee Park vineyard. In recent times, more private collectors have embraced Mr Myer's long-term vision of a bold sculptural narrative amidst the coastal landscape. There's now an abundance of art to behold while enjoying a glass of cool-climate Chardonnay.
John and Wendy Mitchell and their family are the trailblazers who created Montalto, a fantasy theme park for lovers of wine, food, and art. This year’s Sculpture Prize walk is the best to date, with twenty-three stunning works including a golden tree, a gigantic parasite, and suspended bronze curtains all exhibited within the vineyard and ajacent bushland. The creativity is made more glorious by a glass of delicious estate Pinot Noir.
Further south, John Gandel (whose fortune was made at Chadstone Shopping Centre) has employed renowned Art Collector, Ken Scarlett to scour the globe for new works reserved for the grounds and gardens of his Point Leo Estate. Above the amphitheatre of ornamental lake and surrounding vines, a yet-to-be-opened restaurant takes advantage of panaromic ocean views and large sculptures by Clement Meadmore, Geoffrey Bartlett and Anthony Pryor.
The entrance to the new Jackalope Hotel at Willow Creek Vineyard features another striking Emily Floyd work. A gigantic black Jackalope crouches, seven-metre-tall, like a sentinel at the front of Rare Hare restaurant. The Jackalope reflects the imagination of 28-year-old owner, Louis Li, a collector and bold visionary who has ensured the work of the world’s hottest contemporary artists, from Somers to Soho, furnish his hotel.
Jackalope is the new Bauhaus school of aesthetics where you can wake up surrounded by art in a luxurious suite overlooking the plush Willow Creek vineyard. All the glamour of a five-star hotel includes an infinity pool floating over vines, an inspired collection of brilliant chandeliers by Jan Flook and lit ceramic and glass objects. Li trained in filmmaking before building his hotels and in the front cocktail bar, Flagadoot, the collection includes gold Edra leatherworks chairs, a Ric Owen timber bench festooned with stag antler and a breathtaking array of glass including Leisa Wharington decanters, all combining for a powerful and extremely exciting design narrative.
There is no debating the fact that waking up in a gorgeous location, wandering around looking at millions of dollars’ worth of beautiful art is pretty incomparable. This is the new frontier of Mornington Peninsula’s tourism. The region is widely known as a place of relaxation and regeneration for people in the city in need of a rest. Today the region sits at the crossroads of urban sprawl, vineyards and ocean views. The future is with fine wine and significant developments that embrace art and design like Jackalope, Port Phillip Estate and visionaries like Baillieu Myer AC and Louis Li who furnish the region with a spectacular and bright future in art, design and sculpture. My advice: Plunge in…