The 1991 destruction of Karl Duldig’s ‘Progress of Man’ and its counterpart ‘Abstract’ from the office complex at 505 St Kilda Road drew public attention to the tenuous existence of public art – and sparked the realisation that no organisation was specifically concerned with its protection. 


The National Trust saw public art as an essential part of Victoria’s cultural landscapes, an element as worthy of heritage assessment as architecture, gardens and trees. In response, we established a Public Art Committee, and began classifying public artworks across Victoria for inclusion in the National Trust Heritage Register 


As of 2021 there are over 100 works classified on the Register under the designation of ‘public art’, including sculptures, fountains, mosaics, stained glass windows, monuments and memorials. with the most recent artwork added in 2018: the 2008 sculpture Orion by artist Geoffrey Bartlett, located at 428-430 St Kilda Road. 


Over the past 30 years there have been many wins, losses and compromises, and in some cases public artworks that were identified and preserved by the Public Art Committee in the 1990s are now in need of renewed attention. This includes Inge King’s late modernist public sculpture Forward Surge, installed on the Victorian Arts Centre lawn in 1981. 

In 1996 it was announced that the work would be relocated to make way for a new outdoor auditorium. Following an advocacy campaign launched by the Public Art Committee, including the preparation of protest letters, media attention and a deputation to the Arts Centre management, the proposed relocation did not go ahead.  


We continue to advocate for significant public art to be protected and understood as a valuable feature of our built environment. 


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