Let’s Celebrate ’88 – All Over Again

(Above: Literary Heights by John Underwood)

early 30 years ago, Australia’s north-eastern state of Queensland hosted World Expo (aka Expo ’88),  in its capital city of Brisbane. World Expo ’88 was celebrated over a six-month period from 30 April-30 October, 1988 and its theme was “Leisure in the Age of Technology“.

The Expo fair was the largest event of the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations and attracted more than 15,760,000 visitors who bought tickets worth A$175 million. The event also helped promote Queensland as a tourist destination and it spurred a major re-development of the South Brisbane city site of South Bank.

A part of this Expo were the series of 90 life size sculpture forms which were created and commissioned by local artist John Underwood.  His statues, made from coated fibre-glass and plaster-of-Paris; depicted the thin line between reality and various moments of life, captured and frozen in time.

Some examples of Underwood’s sculptures which appeared in little nooks and crannies around the Expo site at South Bank included:

  • a photographer,
  • a couple sitting on a park bench,
  • men mending fishing nets,
  • a young girl climbing a palm tree,
  • a boy scout,
  • lifesavers,
  • an acrobat riding a bicycle on a trapeze,
  • another acrobat balancing on some stools; and
  • a drover and his mate, (to mention but a few).

(Above: The Drover and His Mate by John Underwood).

At the conclusion of Expo ’88 many of Underwood’s works were purchased by private collectors as well as the Brisbane City Council and private enterprise.

Two of the sculptures still reside at South Bank – one is hanging in Stanley Street Plaza and the other is located in the South Bank Visitor Centre.

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