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News – New artwork takes shape on MCA façade

Posted on July 10, 2013 in Curatorial.

Mike Hewson and Agatha Gothe-Snape, IT XXXXX XX (2013), digital print on adhesive vinyl shrouding scaffolding structure, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, The Rocks, Sydney, courtesy and © the artists

Recent MCA visitors and passers-by will have noticed that Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is cleaning the east-facing façade of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) to preserve and reinvigorate its quayside exterior. But unlike most building works, the scaffold surrounding the iconic building is not covered by a dull wrap – it is being transformed into an enormous six-storey high public artwork that will unravel and evolve over three months.


The artwork is commissioned by Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority in association with the MCA. Today it reveals itself in the first of five stages to be carried out over the 89-day period of scaffold construction and disassembly, and will be more than 2,300 square metres at its optimal phase by early August.

'The otherwise blank white scaffold covering is being used as a canvas by artists Mike Hewson and Agatha Gothe-Snape, who are collaborating on what is a creative approach to the maintenance of one of Sydney’s most recognised buildings’, says Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority CEO Catherine Gallagher.

'We’re very mindful of the MCA building’s prominence on the Sydney panorama.’ adds Ms Gallagher, 'As leaders in place making, the cleaning work presents the Authority with an opportunity to add a stunning large-scale contemporary artwork to the landscape, creating an intriguing and memorable experience for locals and visitors to our city.’

The artwork incorporates elements of both Hewson and Gothe-Snape’s individual styles in an intricate mix of text-based and graphic elements.

Hewson’s installation-based work augments existing architectural structures with illusory and distorting effects, while Gothe-Snape’s conceptual works focus on the human side of art – relationships between people, art and art-spaces. Together, their work is a vast typographical illusion that transforms during the five stages of the building’s cleaning process.

Playing with the uneven exterior of the Museum, the work uses dimensional perspective and a clever play on words to create a poetic and intriguing artwork that grows and shrinks and changes in appearance and meaning as scaffolding is assembled and deconstructed.

Like a very slow stop motion text animation, the addition of each letter and word consecutively creates an open-ended sense of speculation much like a skywriter’s trace as each word is written. Each stage is designed to create a sense of poetic whimsy.

“We want each individual member of the public to interact with the work differently,” says Gothe-Snape. “As each stage unfolds, the work intervenes on the site to create new meanings.”

Museum opening hours remain the same – the only difference is that MCA patrons get to experience a monumental exterior work of art as part of their gallery visit too.


Mike Hewson
Born: 1985, Dunedin, New Zealand
Mike Hewson is a photographer and installation artist often concerned with architecture and empty or ‘dead’ spaces. His recent works in Christchurch, New Zealand, on buildings listed for imminent demolition, acknowledged and reflected on the devastating destruction brought on by the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 and the rapidly changing aesthetic of a demolished city centre. His art practice engages a dialogue with physical space, often by distorting or mirroring existing features using large-scale digital print, which seeks to amplify the viewer’s experience of an environment by challenging their perception of the space.

Agatha Gothe-Snape
Born: 1980, Sydney, Australia
Agatha Gothe-Snape’s art practice relates closely to improvisational performance, literature and text. Her work is constantly evolving; an ephemeral entity just out of reach of proper categorization. She strives to communicate in diverse ways: her work has taken many forms, including pedestrian performances, endlessly looped PowerPoint slide shows, workshops, diagrams, visual scores and collaboratively produced art objects. Her work often uses clichés and idioms to challenge structures of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art, often using humour to bring conceptual ideas to the fore. Much of her art has used the technique of projecting or painting text on to walls or spaces, forcing the viewer to engage with her messaging as well as reflect on art spaces, advertising and hidden meanings in simple phrases.

For more information on Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, visit the website

Posted by Kelly Stone