1. Themes
  2. A to Z

Yellow Peril

The 'Yellow Peril' was the nickname given to the yellow steel abstract sculpture named Vault created by Sydney artist Ron Robertson-Swann for the City Square. It became the focus of the most heated and protracted debate on public art in Australia. The sculpture design was selected by the City Square architects Denton Corker Marshall in May 1978 after a competition between Robertson-Swann, Clive Murray-White and David Wilson, and approved by the Melbourne City Council in December 1978. After fabrication in Melbourne the sculpture was installed on 1 May 1980. From the start Cr Don Osborne was strongly opposed to the sculpture and led an unrelenting campaign to reject it. The sculpture's staunchest and most influential supporter was Cr Irvin Rockman, Lord Mayor during the first part of the controversy. The Council debated the sculpture issue on a number of occasions before finally voting on 28 July 1980 to remove the sculpture. Delays caused by the need to select and prepare a new location, the sacking of the Council at the end of 1980, and trade union opposition to the removal meant it was almost a year before this took place. In the early hours of 12 July 1981 the sculpture was moved to Batman Park. Vault remained here for some 21 years. During this time it became a target for graffiti and was used as a shelter by the homeless. In 2002 the sculpture was moved to a site next to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Southbank.

Geoffrey Wallis

Wallis, Geoffrey J., Peril in the square: The sculpture that challenged a city, Indra Pub, Melbourne, 2004. Details