Lady of St Kilda returns home

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By Maddison McSwain


The iconic Lady of St Kilda artwork was reinstalled to its original home on the Carlisle Street railway bridge on March 21.

Photo courtesy of City of Port Phillip

Photo courtesy of City of Port Phillip

Port Phillip Council commissioned the restoration of the public artwork last July to address the discolouration and rust from the elements over the previous 22 years.

The mural has become a local icon since it was placed on the bridge in 1993. It depicts the Lady of St Kilda schooner (which was moored in Melbourne in the late 1840s) surrounded by waves and mermaids.

Mayor Amanda Stevens said the much-loved public art piece added to the vibrancy and colour of St Kilda. “We sought feedback from the community on where the Lady of St Kilda should be reinstalled and the overwhelming response was back on the railway bridge. It will be terrific having this distinctive artwork back for residents and visitors to enjoy,” Cr Stevens said.

Conservator Paul Hunt was engaged to restore the work according to international conservation standards, with the assistance of the original artist, Alex Nemirovsky.

“It’s been tremendously satisfying working on the Lady of St Kilda as this artwork is being returned to the public realm looking as good as it possibly can be,” Mr Hunt said.

Mr Nemirovsky was also pleased with the end result. “The restoration has been done beautifully and the mural is back to its original state,” he said. “I’m so happy this blend of fantasy and history will be back on display.”

Mr Nemirovsky initially wanted to make the artwork something powerful and decorative for the street. “It was looking pretty empty,” he said.

Restoring the Lady of St Kilda was no simple task according to Mr Nemirovsky. “It was a big job for the two of us. I was involved with repainting the artwork and Paul was involved with the rust process and metal stability.”

When Alex originally created the artwork back in 1993, his father Ruv Nemirovsky, a professional sculptor, worked on the metalwork in a factory before it was brought to St Kilda.

The artwork has been subject to graffiti in the past and Cr Stevens is aware this will be an ongoing concern for the Lady of St Kilda. “The use of lighting to prevent graffiti has been investigated and United Energy will soon replace pole lantern lamps adjacent to the bridge with a higher watt metal halide lamp,” Cr Stevens said. “This will increase light around the artwork while taking into consideration Metro’s requirements for train driver safety.”

While Port Phillip Council is attempting to minimise the opportunity for graffiti on the work, they understand the artwork is in a public place and as vulnerable to tagging as any other exterior surface.

Although pleased with the final result, Mr Nemirovsky believes painting the background “some kind of sea colour” would complete the artwork fully. “A greenish-blue background would look just beautiful,” he said.

The Lady of St Kilda artwork will remain a tribute to the schooner from which St Kilda takes its name for years to come.

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