20 October 2016

A Showgirl Memorial for Taylor Square, Sydney







In February 2014 The City of Sydney Council endorsed Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s proposal to install a permanent artwork at Taylor Square to mark the 40th anniversary of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2018.

This decision came about after the early removal of our loved Rainbow Crossing by the State Government and a well-attended Rainbow Rights Forum held by the City at Paddington Town Hall in July 2013. There were numerous ideas, several of which incorporated a rainbow motif. Ideas included a rainbow suspended over Taylor Square, a rainbow fountain, ideas for sculptures, lighting, and plaques that told our communities stories.

Apart from the range of different ideas, strong views were expressed about the role such a symbol should play. Foremost was the desire that it be permanent and that it capture the character of the Sydney LGBTI community, in both its playful and serious modes. That it should serve as a landmark, a destination and a meeting place. Something people wanted to photograph and share with others.



Earlier this year David Lang, who is remembered for his Cynthia Randall drag queen persona and who was very much front and centre of the drag community of the late 80s early 90s, established a Facebook memorial group for ‘Our Dearly Departed Gay Entertainers’. And for many months this group has been very active in discussing how our community could celebrate and remember their contribution to Gay Sydney.

Lang said “For some time I have believed that this group needs to be remembered and their names etched into history by giving the future a chance to glance back.  It is because of their tireless efforts, strength and determination we have enjoyed the most dynamic cultural LGBTI community in the world”. 

Lang’s vision for the memorial is a bronze statute at Taylor Square. This will be a life sized version of the DIVA (Drag Industry Variety Awards) awards statue designed by Ian Jopson and placed on what would almost appear to be the purpose built pedestal outside the Oxford Hotel and adjacent to the disused toilet block. He estimates that the entire cost will be approximately one hundred thousand dollars and a small trust fund would also be set up for maintenance and the addition of more names as time passes.

While there are many Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorials around the world, including our own Sydney Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial at Green Park in Darlinghurst, there are fewer gay specific public art statues of significance.

Gay Liberation by George Segal
The Gay Liberation Monument is a monument featuring the bronze sculpture Gay Liberation by American artist George Segal, located in Christopher Park in the West Village section of Manhattan, New York. Located at the northern end of the park, the art installation commemorates the Stonewall riots and features four figures, two standing men and two seated women, in affectionate poses. The monument was dedicated in June 1992 and is part of the Stonewall National Monument.

Alan Turing by Glyn Hughes
Visit Sackville Gardens next to Canal Street, the gay epicentre of Manchester in England, and you will find the statue of Alan Turing sitting on a bench. Turing is one of Manchester's most famous gay figures. The life-size bronze figure, made by Glyn Hughes in 2001 tells the story of how he helped defeat the Nazis in World War II but was shunned by a country unable to accept his homosexuality and is both a reminder and celebration of how far society has developed in the years since. 

Lange has since received a response from the City that the Public Art Advisory Panel carefully reviewed the proposal and has advised not to accept any proposals for Taylor Square as the current focus is the planning for the permanent installation celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Mardi Gras.

Lang is now proposing that a temporary version of the proposed statue be installed for the duration of the next Mardi Gras Festival in 2017. He tells me this has been met with enthusiasm and the plan is to have a structure built using perhaps fibre glass and other less expensive materials however appearing as it would if cast in bronze.

Lange said “I am hoping that this will look so good and compliment the surroundings leaving the Advisory Panel no alternative but to approve the permanent statue”

This opens a can of worms as to what we want as a community to be our permanent public art installation at Taylor Square. Everyone will have great ideas and let’s hope we all get to have a say. But you have to admit just this one proposal is so so Sydney!  


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