'Moronic': Artists behind vandalised prime minister sculptures in Ballarat botanical gardens speak out

The artists behind the sculptures of both Tony Abbott and John Howard - which were vandalised early on Saturday morning in Ballarat's Botanical Gardens - have spoken of their sadness at the damage done to their work.

Sydney-based artist Linda Klarfeld, who was commissioned for the bust of Tony Abbott, said the vandalism would affect the many people involved in the creation of the statue.

It's a shame that somebody would go and destroy something because it doesn't respect those who put their blood, sweat and tears into it

Linda Klarfeld, artist

"Obviously it makes me very sad to hear it because I put so much work into that - it took many months.

"But it was not only me, it was a whole community effort. There was a team, there's people from the foundry, there's stone masons, they worked very hard."

"It's a shame that somebody would go and destroy something because it doesn't respect those who put their blood, sweat and tears into it."

Sculptor Linda Klarfeld, Tony Abbot MP and Ballarat Mayor Smantha McIntosh at the unveiling of Tony Abbotts's bust at Prime Minister's Avenue in Ballarat. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Sculptor Linda Klarfeld, Tony Abbot MP and Ballarat Mayor Smantha McIntosh at the unveiling of Tony Abbotts's bust at Prime Minister's Avenue in Ballarat. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

"I remember when we were there for the installation, everyone was trying to get it right and make it something people go and see in Ballarat - and then this happens. Everyone's going to be sad."

Ms Klarfeld, who was born in Prague then moved to Australia in 1980, told The Courier she is "not political in any way."

"I was born in a communist country. When communism fell there were heaps of statues that were dismantled and thrown into the seas.

"I understand that people take out their frustrations on inanimate objects."

"I think in the case of the prime minister's walk, it's not about whether you like his views - I am sure there are a lot of prime ministers on there whose views people don't like.

One of the vandalised statues. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

One of the vandalised statues. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

"It's the fact he has been a prime minister. It's a historical thing."

She said she found the onions placed around the neck of Tony Abbott a more appropriate form of protest.

"I think that's more the Australian way," she said. "You don't have to like everything and you can express your opinion but you don't want to go around hurting anyone. You don't want to be so violent."

Ms Klarfeld has also been commissioned to produce the bust of Malcolm Turnbull, which is currently being formed by the foundry.

"Hopefully by the time he's installed this will pass," she said.

"Once it's installed I lose control of it. It makes me sad [something like this] would happen but I can't really do anything. I can't stand there like a security guard.

"And even if I did, I wouldn't do much good since I am smaller than most of my sculptures."

Peter Nicholson, the artist who created the John Howard bust, called the vandalism "moronic".

"It's just a really dumb thing to do," he said.

If you're going to go around and vandalise every statue you happen to disagree with their political views, there's not going to be a statue left in the whole bloody country

Peter Nicholson, sculptor

Mr Nicholson, who is one of the most prolific artists represented on Prime Ministers Avenue, having also been commissioned for the statues of Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, said he was not a fan of John Howard politically.

However, he said it was "silly" to damage a statue because of differences of opinion.

"If you're going to go around and vandalise every statue you happen to disagree with their political views, there's not going to be a statue left in the whole bloody country."

"Let's have an argument about it and a discussion about it but don't deface things."

He recalled the former prime minister had liked his statue on a visit to his studio.

He said it was not the first time vandals had attacked one of his statues, citing an attempt - which ultimately failed - to topple the bust of Paul Keating.

He also recalled the bust of Gough Whitlam was stolen completely and was eventually recovered in a lake during a drought.

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This story 'Moronic' and 'sad': Artists behind vandalised prime minister sculptures speak out first appeared on The Courier.