Austrian novelist Robert Musil once made the comment in regard to public monuments that attention “slips away from them like water slips off a duck’s back”. In many ways, the MCA is this very duck. The building is familiar to most living in Sydney and, because of this, barely noticed. But in recent times, our attention has been creeping back to the museum with the construction of its controversial new wing and last summer’s stream of Anish Kapoor selfies. This winter, it’s undergoing a ‘spring clean’ shrouded in a new façade.

As a clever sidestep from unsightly green scaffolding, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority has commissioned a six-storey high public artwork, by photographer and installation artist Mike Hewson and Agatha Gothe-Snape, whose practice is difficult to place but uses text, colour, space, conversation and participation.

Their initial blueprint of the work was drafted on a napkin over a curry. Gothe-Snape is providing text (to be revealed) – which will appear as a negative space in the scaffold structure which will envelop the building. Hewson lends his understanding of perspective, photography and engineering know-how. The cocoon-like illusion, in which the sandstone of the building is re-revealed, will leave it to the viewer to determine the work’s meaning.

Says Gothe-Snape, “The work has been designed to be revealed and accumulate in time with the scaffolding… The phrase refers to a sense of longevity, durability and timelessness.” She comments that in this time of instant gratification a sense of permanence and duration are perhaps more important than ever, even if they are only temporary.

Neither artist is a stranger to using public spaces as a canvas. Gothe-Snape’s focus hones in on the social aspect of art and the relationship between humans and spaces. In his recent work, Homage to the Lost Spaces, Hewson installed large-scale prints on buildings devastated by the earthquakes in Christchurch. These provided an allegorical renovation of the constructions, giving them symbolic recognition before they were to be destroyed.

“I enjoy making subtle interventions (and often on a large-scale) that may catch their eye one day and allow them to see or experience that space in a new light. All art doesn't have to be site-specific but in one sense by engaging the surroundings it can allow a work to take on a whole new scale,” says Hewson.

Beyond this temporary curtain, the MCA will continue to exhibit as usual. There are major exhibitions by Canadian photographer Jeff Wall and multidisciplinary artist Wangechi Mutu, who uses various mediums to comment on the representation of the female body.

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