Sydney’s Milk Crate Art Scandal Turns Ugly

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


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

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

Sydney’s Hany Armanious has gone on the offensive in response to allegations that his new public art commission, Pavilion, is a copy of Crates, a smaller work by Melbourne’s Jarrad Kennedy, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. As previously reported by artnet News in “Sydney Art Commission Sours Over Milk Crate Controversy,” both artworks are oversize milk crates.

In a letter to the city, Kennedy outlined “distinct similarities” between Crates and Pavilion, two replicas of “a generic milk crate that has been scaled up,” “sited on grass,” and meant as “a place for contemplation and repose.”

Armanious sees it differently, telling the Herald that “his is virtually a plywood cubby house. Mine is a cathedral. The two works are worlds apart.”

“I’ve never heard of him. I’ve never seen his work. End of story,” he added. Armanious regrets that his credibility has been drawn into question, reflecting that “I guess that’s to be expected in the public domain. You’ll have opportunists always coming out making ludicrous claims.”

While Kennedy admits “I’m kind of the little guy” compared to Armanious, who has represented his country in the Venice Biennale, he is defending himself against accusations that he is just looking to make money off the controversy. “It’s about my artistic integrity,” he says. “It’s my signature work and I felt miffed when it was brought to my attention. I just want some acknowledgment.”

Kennedy also expressed his surprise that the city would not have been aware of Courts, a 2005 McLelland sculpture prize finalist, telling the Herald that “in a way it’s a bigger faux pas by the City of Sydney than the artist himself to miss that. It puts the integrity of their selection process into question.”

Pavilion is one of three works (along with Tracey Emin‘s The Distance of Your Heart and Junya Ishigami’s Cloud Arc) selected from among 700 entries by the Sydney Council for a £5.2 million ($9.3 million) public art project (see “Tracey Emin Places 60 Birds Across Sydney“).

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