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2010/34/1 Mosaic, glass, 'The maiden of abundance', Skygarden retail centre, made by Public Art Squad, Melbourne Mural Studio, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1989-1990. Click to enlarge.

Glass mosaic 'The Maiden of Abundance' from Skygarden retail centre Sydney

The glass mosaic 'The maiden of abundance' is one of the most-high profile art works produced by the leading public art practice Public Art Squad. It was a central part of one of the outstanding public interiors of 1980s Sydney.

The work is a fine example of the revival of mosaic, terrazzo, mural and other decorative media by the public art movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The use of mosaic glass from the famous Orsoni foundry in Venice underlines the cultural provenance of this work.


Object No.


Object Statement

Mosaic, glass, 'The maiden of abundance', Skygarden retail centre, made by Public Art Squad, Melbourne Mural Studio, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1989-1990

Physical Description

Mosaic, glass, 'The maiden of abundance', Skygarden retail centre, made by Public Art Squad, Melbourne Mural Studio, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1989-1990

A concave glass mosaic on fibreglass backing. A steel frame supports these. Broken sections of granite are adherred to the fibreglass suround in places.

The mosaic depicts a classically-inspired maiden figure, supported by clouds. The maiden is holding a vessel, from which water descends onto a pattern of waratahs and other native flowers. The female figure resembles several artistic representations of the Greek goddess Circe.



9000 mm


2000 mm



David Humphries (b.1948) studied painting at the National Art School, Sydney and arts administration at the City University, London. In 1976 Humphries became involved in community arts projects in New York, and an advocate and practitioner of public art works with direct relevance to their locale and community.

During the decade following his return to Australia in 1978, Humphries with his parter Rodney Monk directed hundreds of mural projects. These included the 1985 Sulman Prize winning mural 'Think Globally Act Locally' at Redfern, 'Peace Justice & Unity', Park Street, Sydney and a mural series for the Devonshire Street subway, Central Railway Station. Humphries was the first Community Arts project officer appointed by the NSW Ministry for the Arts and in 1982 co-authored The Mural Manual for the Arts Council of NSW.

In 1985 Humphries formed Public Art Squad Pty Ltd which, while continuing to develop community-based projects, also accepted numerous corporate and government commissions. The company also expanded its practice beyond murals to mosaics, sculptures and terrazzo work. During the past two decades Public Art Squad has completed numerous commissions for public spaces including St Marys Cathedral Cardinal's House, Harbourside Darling Harbour, Le Meriden Hotel Noumea, The Glasshouse shopping centre, Sydney, Clunies Ross Centre for Science and Industry, Brisbane, Robina Town Centre, Gold Coast, Star City Casino, Campbelltown Regional Gallery, Canberra Exhibition Centre, Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne.

Melbourne Mural Studio was founded in 1989 by David Jack, a former assistant to the leading mural artist David Freedman. Skygarden was MMS' first public commission, since when the Studio has produced numerous works for buildings including Australia on Collins, Chifley Tower, Melbourne Convention Centre, Performing Arts Museum, Melbourne, and the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.



From 1987 to 1991 David Humphries worked as Director of decorative arts for Merlin International Properties.

Merlin was founded by Tom Hayson, best known for convincing NSW premier Neville Wran that the redundant Darling Harbour transport precinct should be redeveloped as a retail, leisure and cultural park on the model pioneered at Baltimore, USA. Hayson brought the Baltimore harbour developers and architects to Sydney and was crucial in initiating the Darling Harbour project.

David Humphries created an extensive program of artworks for Merlin's Harbourside retail centre at Darling Harbour. From 1987 he also began work on Skygarden, Merlin's other high-profile Sydney project. Designed by Crone Architects, which had also designed Centrepoint and Centrepoint Tower, Skygarden was built behind two heritage-listed facades at its Pitt Street end. It featured seven floors of retail and restaurants as well as a food court beneath a glazed roof.

Skygarden's floors featured wood mosaics and terrazzo panels designed and produced by Public Art Squad. It also featured glass mosaics produced in association with the Melbourne Mosaic Studio. For the project two tons of hand cut glass was imported from the Orsoni Glass Foundry, Venice, founded in 1888.

In 1990 Neville Quarry described Skygarden as follows: 'The recently completed Skygarden project provides two pedestrian areas of circulation. One, horizontal, connects Castlereagh Street and Pitt Street mall...a second, vertical, whizzes people via escalator to the Skydining zone, through five levels of retail above ground. This fast-food and sedentary eating area is a new sort of public space for Sydney. Through the glass roof you can see the sky and watch the weather, as well as the looming neighbourhood office towers. This grand internal volume is decorated with art works, metal sculptures of de-constructed lyre birds and fillets of pergolas - bushy Oz variations on the tough technological constructions with which the architects Morphosis enliven their restaurant innovations in Los Angeles. Protected from the wind but with the natural variety of the day and night still visually accessible, this Skydining trading/eating space is far superior to those in which the only way to tell the time is to look at your digital watch.

To architectural purists, the way to the stars via moving staircases between boutiques, with lashings of murals, mosaics, patterned floors and craft paint finishes might seem like a visual smorgasbord overload. As in all good smorgasbords, nothing succeeds like excess'. [Architecture Australia, September 1990 p.41].

In 2009 Westfield, having purchased Skygarden and neighboring properties including the Imperial Centre and Centepoint, began constuction of a new retail and office development bounded by Pitt, Market and Castlereagh streets. The new complex is being built to a design by John Wardle Architects, winner of a limited international design contest.

According to Westfield, 'the existing Imperial Arcade and Convention Centre buildings will be demolished and Centrepoint and Skygarden will be extensively modified to allow for the creation of a new retail centre over several levels covering the entire site. The facades facing Castlereagh Street, Pitt Street and Market Street will have shop fronts over two levels from street levels and a glazed façade above on the remaining upper levels of retail. New floor and ceiling finishes will be installed, existing voids and open space will be reconfigured and a new system of escalators will be installed'.


Credit Line

Gift of Westfield Project Management Limited, 2010

Acquisition Date

12 May 2010

Cite this Object


Glass mosaic 'The Maiden of Abundance' from Skygarden retail centre Sydney 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 October 2021, <>


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