David Greybeard: giant chimpanzee to take up residence in the heart of Melbourne

David-Greybeard-by-Artist-Lisa-Roet-CAD-image-courtesy-Airena-(Felipe-Reynolds)A large-scale public artwork of iconic chimpanzee David Greybeard, muse of ground-breaking scientist Dr Jane Goodall, is set to bring conservation and the environment into focus at Arts Centre Melbourne next month.

Australian artist Lisa Roet’s 9m x 12m sculpture commemorates the 60th anniversary of Goodall’s first research expedition and will be installed on one of the city’s most loved buildings – Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall – on Thursday 3 December before embarking on a world tour.

Designed to raise questions around humanity’s relationship with nature and our closest living animal relative, the artwork will be positioned with a hand outstretched to the viewer. A QR Code will take people to the campaign website, where they will be immersed in a 3D experience of Gombe National Park in Tanzania.

With the support of the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, Lisa and a team of Victorian artisans have been working throughout this year to create the sculpture while researching and showcasing ways to create major public artworks that have a sustainable environmental footprint.

“Creativity is about making a statement and Lisa has worked for decades to use her creative voice to shine a light on issues around the environment and biodiversity,” said Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson.

“The Victorian Government is proud to support this project which brought together a team of Victorian creatives, led by Airena, to realise Lisa’s vision and we look forward to seeing this made-in-Melbourne artwork sharing its message and capturing the imaginations of people across the globe.”

For over two decades, Roet has won acclaim in Australia and internationally for her powerful investigations into our evolving understanding of the place of humanity within nature, with Dr Goodall’s research at the forefront for much of her work. Her cutting-edge public artworks about biodiversity have been shown in major cities around the world, including Beijing, Hong Kong, Chengdu and the Netherlands.

David Greybeard was due to be launched in Melbourne in April this year. Since then the world has changed and its message has become even more pertinent,” said Artist Lisa Roet. “The sculpture is an invitation to join together with a united voice to speak for those that cannot speak for themselves, to protect the environment we all share and to understand the need to unite in this time of uncertainty.”

David Greybeard was the chimpanzee to whom Dr Jane Goodall dedicated her first ground-breaking research papers about emotion and communication in animals, after he welcomed her into his family and showed her that chimpanzees use tools.

The collaboration between the artist and ethologist is a celebration of the exceptional work of Dr Jane Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute globally. Working from a circular sustainability model, it is a case study for how art and sustainability can combine to create change.

Lisa Roet is an Australian visual artist who has exhibited within Australia and internationally for the past 30 years. Roet has explored the concept, “what it is to be human” and is committed to exploring environmental issues and genetic discoveries through an interdisciplinary approach to her practice.

Her work has focused on some of the world’s environmental hotspots, including Borneo and most recently China, resulting in a series of large-scale public artworks exhibited at Beijing Design Week and Business Design Week Hong Kong.

Roet responds to the image of the ape and monkey as human’s closest relative, the ape acting as a mirror and social commentary reminding us of the necessity to re-evaluate our position within this increasingly urbanized world. Above all, she believes that creativity has the ability to present pertinent and powerful messages, a philosophy she represents through her art.

“Conservation and contemporary art can combine to create a new vehicle for change.” – Lisa Roet

Following its world premiere in Melbourne on Thursday 3 December, the David Greybeard sculpture will leave the city on 22 December before touring to six countries and four continents around the world. For more information, visit: www.davidgreybeard.com for details.

Image: David Greybeard by Artist Lisa Roet – CAD image courtesy Airena/Felipe Reynolds