Get it up! Calls to reinstate Brisbane artwork
THE artwork that got its nickname from an infamous rugby league bum-poking outrage became one of Brisbane's most loved. Brisbane artist Sebastian Di Mauro's sculpture Chat once adorned the footpath outside 175 Eagle Street but it disappeared five years ago during a building refurbishment and hasn't been seen since.
Featuring two hands, one with a finger poking skywards, Chat was dubbed "The Hopoate" after Wests Tigers bad boy John Hopoate was banned for 12 weeks in 2001 after inserting his fingers into the backside of three opposition players from North Queensland. The artwork was installed just after that and was immediately dubbed "The Hopoate", a name that stuck.
Next to Christopher Trotter's brilliant scrap metal kangaroos on George Street "The Hopoate" became Brisbane's most loved and noticed public artwork.
Di Mauro, a former lecturer at the Queensland College of Art who now lives in the US for much of the year, is back in Brisbane at the moment for an exhibition at Onespace Gallery at Highgate Hill.
Di Mauro, now 63, says people are still asking him when Chat will be seen again in public. He admits the nickname was unfortunate and "not endearing" but says he has always appreciated its public profile.
"And people want it back," Di Mauro says. "I think it should come back. People ask me about it all the time and they say it was an icon which is great because I wanted it to be iconic. It became part of the social fabric of Brisbane."
Di Mauro's art dealer, John Stafford, runs Onespace Gallery with his wife Jodie Cox and also has an art business called CREATIVEMOVE. Stafford is a public art specialist and says Di Mauro has contributed some amazing public art to Brisbane. Stafford says Chat, which is estimatedto be worth in excess of $150,000 should be returned to its rightful place in the Brisbane CBD.
"It is extremely disappointing and frustrating that the responsible and participating parties involved in the custodianship and care of this significant high quality and well-loved piece of public art have failed to reinstate the work to the public domain," Stafford says. "It has been more than five years since the work went into storage, that's longer than one term of local government. Chat was a local landmark and just about every taxi driver in town knew the work and would tell their customers about it as they drove past."
Brisbane City Council's media department claims Council does not have the work but correspondence on the matter suggests otherwise. It was decommissioned by developer Charter Hall which then restored it and then apparently transferred it to Council to be moved to another site in the city but that hasn't happened.
In July 2017, Sebastian Di Mauro and CREATIVEMOVE were provided a Draft Deed of Assignment between BCC, Charter Hall and Sebastian Di Mauro, whereby the work, Chat, would be gifted to Council, on the basis that Council meet the costs of transport and storage of the work on Council premises.
Stafford says the status of the deed is still unclear. As to where Chat aka "The Hopoate" is now nobody seems to know. But Brisbane City Council should take note - the people of Brisbane want it back.