Sydney Art Commission Sours Over Milk Crate Controversy

Hany Armonius's Pavilion (left) and Jarrad Kennedy's Court (right).
Hany Armonius's Pavilion (left) and Jarrad Kennedy's Court (right).

The latest art world controversy? Crategate, in which Melbourne-based artist Jarrad Kennedy contends that a newly announced public art commission in Sydney, Hany Armanious‘s Pavilion, is a knockoff of his earlier work, Court. As reported by the Guardian, Kennedy has taken to social media to point out the striking similarity between the oversize brown milk crate he created for the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park in 2005, and Armanious’s even larger blue one (45 feet tall versus just under 10).

“A Sydney colleague alerted me to the similarities after the works were announced,” Kennedy wrote on Facebook. “I was shocked to say the least. Art may be open to interpretation, but precedents dictate the artwork is in breach of copyright.”

“The city is confident that Hany Armanious’s Pavilion is an original artwork consistent with his practice of artistic excellence,” Barbara Flynn, Sydney’s curatorial adviser for City Centre, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The artist has assured us he was unaware of the existence of this particular Melbourne artwork.”

Although the milk crate is an everyday item, scaling it up to create a work of art does put copyright law in play, provided Armanious saw this original work. Kennedy is reportedly in the process of making his claim to the city of Sydney and to Armanious.

The work is one of three selected as winners of a contest run by the Sydney Council that drew 700 entries from 25 countries. As reported by artnet News, British artist Tracey Emin will scatter 60 bronze bird sculptures across the city in The Distance of Your Heart. The third piece, Junya Ishigami’s Cloud Arch, has also drawn criticism from those who feel that the 170-foot twirling sculpture will look more like a spaghetti strand or giant tapeworm than a cloud. Together, the installation of all three works is expected to cost £5.2 million ($9.3 million).

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