Artwork enclosed in Versace store
A precious mural by revered local artist Napier Waller finds itself adorning the back wall of the new Versace store in Collins St following a renovation of the heritage-classified T&G Building.
The 1928 mural Better Than to Squander Life’s Gifts is to Conserve Them and Ensure a Fearless Future previously adorned the public entrance to the KPMG entrance to the building on the corner of Collins and Russell streets.
Building owner Pembroke has converted the foyer entrance into a retail store, stranding the artwork inside.
The National Trust is comfortable with this outcome, but Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) is “extremely disappointed”.
MHA spokesperson Tristan Davies said: “We’re extremely disappointed to see [that] this mural, made to celebrate the civic revival of post-WW1 Melbourne, now appears as little more than background adornment for a global retail brand.”
Mr Davies said the work was now “obscured by the doors, bright hanging lighting, security guards and product merchandising of a new Versace store”.
National Trust of Australia (Victoria) CEO Simon Ambrose commended the retention of the Napier Waller mural within the Versace shop.
“The mural has been retained in its original position, over options to remove or obscure the work, although its context within the original entry foyer to the T&G Building has been lost,” Mr Ambrose said.
“The National Trust supports the appropriate management of privately-owned public art, including maintaining public access.”
While the T&G Building is protected by a heritage overlay, there are no interior controls, and the mural is not referenced in the schedule to the overlay.
Mr Davies said: “Napier Waller (1893-1972) remains one of Melbourne most celebrated artists, and was a particular inspiration to post-war Melbournian’s due to his work as a painter and mosaic maker across Australia, which he completed despite losing his primary right arm at the Battle of Bullecourt in France, and amazingly learning how to use his remaining left arm with recovering.”
“Waller’s work still has pride of place across Melbourne, including his peace memorial in the State Library, paintings in the Myer Mural Hall, and the iconic Newspaper House mosaic, also on Collins St.”
The building was designed by Anketell & Kingsley Henderson and was constructed during 1928-29. Around this time, Waller completed the mural, which sat above the inner doorway at the Collins St entrance.