Sydney is famous for its memorable public art, and Potts Point is lucky to have a lot of it!
You’ll find famous fountains, sculptures and murals that ensure local stories continue to be told.
There’s certainly plenty to choose from. Here are just a few public artworks we recommend seeking out in our local area.
El Alamein Fountain
Often dubbed ‘the dandelion’ for its 211 ‘stalks’, this award-winning and iconic fountain in Fitzroy Gardens is possibly the most loved landmark in Kings Cross. It’s a favourite meeting place for locals and a marketplace on the weekends. It’s also an important site on ANZAC Day, given it was built to commemorate the Australian Infantry Forces who fought two WWII battles in 1942 near a tiny railway stop called El Alamein. The fountain was designed by architect Robert Woodward, who later became a world-renowned fountain designer! Find out more in this post.
Celebrated artist Michael Snape is known for his captivating large-scale sculptures, which have appeared in Bondi, Darling Harbour, Balmain and – much to our luck! – King’s Cross. Known as ‘Reflections’, Snape’s bold, contemporary red steel sculpture of two abstract silhouettes can be found on Orwell Street in the Springfield Gardens. This leafy plaza has benches and landscaped gardens, and is a popular pitstop for locals to rest and relax.
One of Potts Point’s best-kept secrets is Beare Park, a grassy little harbourside haven surrounded by some of the most stunning Art Deco residential buildings in the area. It’s a favourite with locals and also has a piece of historical public art to enjoy: the Canopy Fountain. The fountain is made of cast iron, with four fluted columns, lion head crockets and a decorated dome. It’s also one of four found in the City of Sydney commemorating the existence of Busby’s Bore, where hand pumps were used to fill water carts which was then given to local residents. Take a sip from the fountain’s drinking bubbler while you’re there, and enjoy a picnic on the grass.
Lamp for Mary
Sydney artist Mikala Dywer created this installation as a way to pay tribute to women who had been victims of violence, and to hopefully pave the way to more equal rights for the LGBTQI community. You’ll find the glowing pink lamp in Mary’s Place off Bourke Street in Surry Hills, the site where a woman named Mary was attacked and left for dead in January 1996. For context, there’s a piece of text on the wall of the Beresford Hotel next to it that reads: “This is a lane with a name and a lamp in memory of the woman who survived being beaten and raped here. She happened to be lesbian. When the sun sets this lamp keeps vigil along with you who read this in silent meditation.” It was reportedly developed by poet and anthropology professor Michael Taussig in consultation with members of the local community.
The Woolloomooloo Mural Project
In 1982, eight murals were painted by local artists Michiel Dolk and Merilyn Fairskye on the suburb’s railway pylons to celebrate Woolloomooloo’s unique history. Two we love include the BLF Green Bans mural, which commemorates the role played by the NSW Builders’ Labourers Federation (BLF) in helping the locals save their homes – you can read more about the BLF’s unique form of environmental activism here. Another not to miss is The Waterfront, which tells the story of the dock workers: and the struggles they faced and the striking they did in order to earn a better living on the wharf in the 1900s. Both can be found on Cathedral Street between Bourke and Forbes Streets.
Given the melting pot that is Woolloomooloo, it’s mixture of high-income earners, public housing tenants and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, it makes sense that this mural was workshopped with artists and local residents to produce something that truly reflected the dynamics and the demographic of the suburb. Apparently, participants aged 7-75 years old were involved. You’ll find it on 79-85 Brougham Street (retaining wall) in Woolloomooloo.
Walking through the Domain near the Art Gallery of NSW, it’s hard to miss Brett Whitley’s striking Almost Once sculpture, a giant 8 metre-high pair of matches, which was gifted to the Gallery in 1991. Whiteley created the sculpture out of blackbutt timber with the help of his assistant Matthew Dillon. The charred effect on one of the matches was produced by suspending the matchstick and burning it half an inch deep. The red tip of the unburnt match was made from polystyrene and coated with fibreglass, resin and paint – but given the nature of the material the sculpture has had to undergo significant restoration over the years.
The mystery mural
You’d never know there was a mystery mural beneath the iconic Kings Cross Coke sign – but that’s exactly what was discovered when Coca Cola gave the billboard a makeover in 2015! The discovery of the postmodern mural thrilled history buffs and was found to have been painted by Blue Mountains-based artist Roger Foley. He was commissioned to paint a tipped bottle on the wall back in 1973, less than a year before the Coke sign was installed. Who knows, maybe he gave Coke the inspiration!