What is the connection between the Honourable Mary Delahunty and a huge naked man? It’s all sculptural, my dear Watson.

mary del’arte and the wild man of mcclelland
” Wild Man” by Ron Mueck 2005

Sculpture, sculpture, sculpture. Australian sculpture, the once poor cousin of the arts, is the proud focus of the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery in Langwarrin.

Remember the Creedance Clearwater Revival lyrics? Big wheel keep on turnin, Proud Mary keep on burnin? Now, in a coup for the Home of Australian Sculpture, Proud Mary ’s just roled into the Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Which Mary Delahunty you may ask? There are at least 3 of them connected to politics.

The one I’m talking about is the award -winning current affairs journalist I watched on the ABC’s “7.30 Report “in the 90’s and then later as a State politician in the Bracks government. Minister variously for Education, Arts , Women’s Affairs and Planning.  Honours Degree in Political Science. 2001 Centenary medal for services to government and journalism.

Still has fingers in so many pies, that she’ll soon have to start using her toes!

Mary’s had a lot of involvement in the Arts over the years – TV, programs, government portfolio, Director of Melbourne Recital Centre and Orchestra Victoria – just to mention a few.

I asked Mary how it all began. “Well, I had a mother who loved reading, and as a teenager I attended Loreto, a Ballarat boarding school. It was in Ballarat that I was exposed to an exciting array of musical entertainment, theatre and arts – a smorgasbord of delights!”

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch holds a special place in her heart.  Around 10 years ago, when post-parliament Mary was at something of a low point in her life, Dame Elisabeth asked her if she would become involved in her Sculpture Foundation. This    offer was something of a lifeline to Mary. She jumped at the opportunity. “I had huge respect for her”, Mary tells me. The aim of the Foundation was to elevate the role of sculpture in Victoria by fundraising to commission talented sculptors. They instituted the Biennales which provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase their creations in a beautiful Australian bushland setting. The winners’ works were bought to be displayed in the McClelland Gallery. The years with the Foundation were obviously a stepping stone to her involvement with the Board of Trustees.

Thanks largely to the interest and generosity of Dame Elisabeth and her setting up of the Sculpture Foundation, over 100 outdoor sculptures abound in 16 hectares of native bushland on the Mornington Peninsula. McClelland welcomes over 200,000 visitors annually, making the unique Sculpture park one of the most visited cultural institutions in Australia.

mary del’arte and the wild man of mcclelland

Mary Delahunty is very excited about the future of the Gallery and Sculpture Park which she claims has elevated the role of Australian sculpture, particularly Victorian. There’s the ilk of Inge King, Clem Meadmore, as well as more contemporary  sculptors represented there . It provides great incentives and opportunities for other aspiring sculptors. A deal with the providers of the new Peninsula Link has seen several McClelland sculptures adorning the freeway to Portsea.

Now in her mid-60’s , Mary’s hoping she’s gained a bit of wisdom and know-how and she’s keen to mentor up and coming artists and writers.

Ask anyone who’s been to McClelland and they’ll tell you it’s a really fabulous experience – and there’s a good cafe as well. An artist friend tells me he always takes overseas visitors there as first port of call.

There’s also an Indoor Sculpture Collection in the McClelland Gallery which holds an important and comprehensive collection of Australian sculpture dating from the mid 1800’s through to present day.

After the first meeting of the Board of Trustees early in February this year, Mary is delighted to report they are plotting something new in the way of an exhibition. It’ll revolve around their “signature piece”, Ron Mueck’s 3 metre – high, nude”Wild Man” which, to date, has been quite a focal point of the exhibits.

So what have Mary Delahunty and ‘Wild Man “got in common? Well, he’s seated on a stool and she’s got the Chair. Apart from that, they’re both larger than life in their own distinctive ways.

Ron Mueck
Wild man 2005
Polyester resin, silicone, horse hair, polyester monofilament
285.0 x 162.0 x 108.0cm
Collection: McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery
Purchased Elisabeth Murdoch Sculpture Fund and The Balnaves Foundation, 2008
©The artist
Photograph: Mark Ashkanasy

mary del’arte and the wild man of mcclelland

McClelland Sculpture Park & Gallery

390 McClelland Drive

Langwarrin, VIC 3910

P: +61 3 9789 1671        F: +61 3 9789 1610

Gallery Opening Hours:

Tues to Sun : 10am – 5pm

Closed on Mondays and some Public Holidays.

Entry by donation

McClelland Gallery Cafe:

Tues to Sun : 10am – 4:30pm   

Book for a meal or function on +61 3 9789 1671

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