THE design for Warrnambool’s soon-to-arrive $100,000 set of public art was chosen over a meal at a local pub last summer.
By next weekend two tall, slender bronze sculptures called The Guardians will grace the Civic Green, as a result of that casual conversation over the pub table.
Philanthropist Professor Barbara van Ernst and Italian-based artist Shona Nunan were sitting with Warrnambool Art Gallery director John Cunningham and his predecessor Murray Bowes discussing a proposal for a significant addition to the city’s artistic landscape.
Nunan was visiting family members in Victoria for Christmas and Professor van Ernst had earlier decided to make a substantial donation to the city, where she had previously headed the Deakin University visual arts faculty.
“She came to Warrnambool at our request and we all sat around a table at the Hotel Warrnambool and looked at her catalogues,” Professor van Ernst recalled yesterday.
“Murray and John were very excited by The Guardians so we decided to make a very large set for Warrnambool.
“I had been concerned that Shona’s work was not represented in Australian galleries and I offered to supply some of her work for Warrnambool.
“Warrnambool was good to me when I was there and I have kept in touch with former staff and students.
“I have a passion for sculpture — I think it’s very neglected.
“It’s a very accessible form of art and stimulates people into becoming more interested.
“You can walk around it and touch it then it changes colour with weathering.”
Professor van Ernst previously donated a sculpture by veteran artist Inge King to Warrnambool gallery as well as paintings and prints from her private collection.
Both women will be in Warrnambool next week when work starts on digging foundations for the 2.2 metre-tall Guardians which will stand near the gallery entrance.
Professor van Ernst said Nunan had spent months making plaster moulds then supervising work at a bronze foundry, but did not want to charge full market price because of her desire to assist with the contribution to Warrnambool.