Kings Park and Botanic Garden is in the heart of Perth and is home to some of the most beautiful permanent public art in the city.
The WA State Botanic Garden also hosts a range of cultural events, and so contributes in a meaningful and contemporary way to the cultural fabric of the city. Outdoor art works surprise and delight visitors, and art is integrated wherever possible into enhancement and development projects, rather than being an after thought.
The themes of the art works vary to match the themes of the precincts, and are designed to offer another layer of story telling and interpretation. For example, there is a stunning series of leaf life cycle forms by artist Malcolm McGregor on the outside wall of Kings Park’s own inspirational gallery and gift shop Aspects of Kings Park.
Another wonderful example of this approach to public art is found at the northern end of the Banksia Garden, with Banksia seats and two large Italian marble floor mosaics featuring eleven forms Banksias found in Kings Park. Recycled Banksia wood provided the timber for the custom made seats, while the steel back uprights depict the leaf shape of a Bull Banksia (Banksia grandis). These are the work of artist Philippa O’Brien and were created in 1996.
Five in-ground Italian marble mosaic artworks with a focus on Indigenous flora have been created by Jacqui Pinnock and Rudolph Verscher specifically for Kings Park, near the entrance to the Botanic Garden, the Nature Trail walk through the bushland, the Lotterywest Federation Walkway and the Synergy Parkland areas to highlight the natural and cultural history of Western Australia.
The 2003 Tuart Leaf Mosaic (designed by Ray Leeves) marks the start of the Lotterywest Federation Walkway and features two young Tuart leaves embedded with emu footprints moving in opposite directions. The Tuart leaf represents the importance of biodiversity, with their juvenile stage symbolising the promise and aspirations of a young nation at Federation. It reflects the aspirations of reconciliation for a shared future of mutual respect between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The emu footprints are shaped like arrows, representing Kings Park’s role as a central meeting place from which many journeys unfold.
Continuing the theme, the Walkway's richly rusted steel surface and the stunning glass bridge are an artistic fusion of sculpture, architecture and engineering that complement the rich texture of natural vegetation. It was designed by architects Donaldson and Warn, in collaboration with engineers Capital House and artist David Jones and displays examples of contemporary Nyoongar artworks designed by Richard Walley and Shane Pickett in collaboration with members of the Nyoongar community. A series of engraved and welded botanical images on the supporting steel pylons were designed by sculptor Kevin Draper.
There are many other examples of art in the WA State Botanic Garden, with the beautifully crafted bronze Bookleaf Memorial in the Water Garden symbolising the petition that eventually won women the right to vote in 1899. The art piece symbolises the gradual progression from the book, to the leaves of a book, to all the different leaf shapes of the Tuart tree. This memorial was commissioned as part of the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage in 1999 and was fabricated by students from the WA School of Art and Design under the direction of artist Tony Jones.
Also in the Water Garden there is a range of copper plated sculptures by artists Coral Lowry and Holly Storey celebrating the contributions of women in society, telling this story using the various stages of plant development cycles. There are also the Acacia Steps, created by artist Stuart Green in 1998 in the shape of an arid region watercourse. The granite steps feature mosaics of six acacia or wattle species detailed on interpretive signage and show the evolutionary development of the genus, from a primitive acacia species at the lowest step to a highly evolved species at the top. The mosaics of marble and Pilbara tiger-eye stone on the steps depict the flowers, change in leaves and development of phyllodes, together with carved seed pods. At each level, the wattle growing in the adjacent garden bed is represented in the mosaic.
The theme of art and culture is continued with the range of events that are annually held in the Botanic Garden. The Spring Kings Park Festival attracts over 600 000 people with a variety of displays, educational and interpretive opportunities including workshops, demonstrations, live theatre and hands-on participation. There is an extensive program of Summer events with an average of 10 large concerts attracting around 5000 people each during the Summer season featuring both classical and contemporary music. Theatre is also held in the Botanic Garden with the annual season performance of Shakespeare in the Park.