'A Day Out' in Adelaide, Australia

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Horatio.

Those passing through Adelaide’s Rundle Mall may be stymied to see four pigs hogging the pedestrian walkway, but Marguerite Derricourt’s sculpture “A Day Out” has provided merriment since it was installed in 1999. After winning a national competition sponsored by the Adelaide City Council, Horatio, Truffles, Augusta, and Oliver took their place in the middle of the city’s main shopping district, which is peppered with convivial art.

Derricourt’s inspiration for the pigs came partly from Florence, Italy’s, famous Il Porcelino fountain that draws tourists to Mercato Nuovo. She was also “captivated by [the] shapes and rounded forms” of pigs, which invites people to interact with them and which Adelaide shoppers regularly do. Sadly, because they are so attractive to play on for children and adults alike, Oliver had to have his curly pointy tail chopped for safety reasons.

Like many public art projects, however, the pigs drove controversy after they were approved by the city. There was some squealing that the $72,000 price tag would leave Adelaide in hock from pork barrel spending. Mostly, however, stodgy art critics spared no ribbing that the pigs were “coarsely populist” and expected benefits were purely on speck. Fortunately, the crackling debate did not hinder the installation, and the reputation of the pigs has snowballed into a genuine beacon of light for tourism.

The controversy was perhaps a bit odd, given that the dominant sculpture on the mall since 1977 has been The Spheres, more commonly known as “The Mall’s Balls.” Nevertheless, the city’s attempt to enhance the street’s artwork was so initially hamstrung that the episode even became a case study for a 2008 Ph.D. dissertation. Author Ruth Fazakerley noted that part of the problem may have been that, “the pigs provided a ready-made and widely understood joke on shopper, tourist and commercial interests” constituting a “friendly jibe” at swinish consumerism.