It was designed to be Canberra’s newest icon – a massive magpie sculpture in Civic – but the “Big Swoop” will now be removed from the city centre for repair following damage by vandals.
Just over two weeks ago, hours after its official unveiling, Canberra artist Yanni Pounartzis’ masterpiece was attacked by vandals, who smashed the bird’s feet as well as the chip it was feasting on.
Now, disappointed and devastated, Yanni and the City Renewal Authority have decided to have the sculpture removed and repaired.
“We’re removing the sculpture to prevent it from any further damage, and we’re going to put it into a facility where we can repair it and look at ways where we can create a more robust and stronger magpie basically,” Yanni said.
“Unfortunately, although it’s had an overwhelming response and it’s incredible how many people already care about it, there’s a few people out there who are determined to test its strength and capacity for foolish reasons.”
Yanni said he had been in talks with the City Renewal Authority to determine when the repairs would start, but a timeframe was yet to be confirmed.
“They’re fully supportive of repairing it and rectifying the damage,” he said.
“The priority now is to remove it and repair it and then we will decide if it goes back to its original place or perhaps a safer place.”
Yanni said the sculpture could return to its original home in Garema Place, but “the options of relocating are still part of the conversation, we haven’t decided yet”.
“One of the main things we are looking at is raising it on a plinth off the ground,” he said. “The whole idea was to really connect with people on the ground and make it interactive. Unfortunately, people took advantage of that.”
A City Renewal Authority spokesperson said Big Swoop was designed to be durable and resilient, because it was the artist’s intention that the public could interact with it.
“Big Swoop has been a big success in helping activate Garema Place … and we are saddened to see that some members of the community are testing the limits of this much-loved artwork,” the spokesperson said.
“While we would like to understand why this has occurred, our immediate concern is to work with the artist, Yanni Pounartzis, to have it removed as soon as possible for repair and to plan how to prevent further damage from occurring.”
The damage has been reported to ACT Policing.
“I have filed a police report for vandalism and the police are looking into it,” Yanni said.
“They said they would check the CCTV footage and if they can identify the people then they will pursue it, but right now it’s just a police report for vandalism.
“We don’t know if there’s actually footage of them, but we’re going to see if there’s anything found.”
Yanni hopes people will respect his artwork in the future.
“Unfortunately there will always be somebody who will try to destroy it but hopefully when it’s been rectified, it’ll be much stronger and a lot more robust,” he said.
Yanni said he was buoyed by how many people had come to care about his sculpture in such a short amount of time.
“The community and the City Renewal Authority have embraced the magpie and want it to survive, they don’t want it to disappear,” he said.
“It’s resonated with people around the country and it’s been quite incredible.”
The repairs are expected to take some time.
“We are trying to rectify it as soon as possible, but our priority right now is to remove it and protect it from further damage,” Yanni said.