Walk the laneways and prominades of Pyrmont and Darling Harbour and you’ll stumble upon art installations, statues and sculptures where you least expect to see them.
Move over Melbourne, you have some fierce competition because Sydney can do sensational street art too! From moving sculptures and digital installations to historical statues and guerilla art, the city’s streets and public spaces are dotted with creative works.
And many are hidden from plain sight or located in unsuspecting spots, such as highway underpasses or building facades in quiet laneways… even hidden in your hotel.
Our location at Aiden Darling Harbour, in Pyrmont on the cusp of Darling Harbour, means some of the city’s best hidden art is within easy walking distance of the hotel. You’ll no doubt stumble across a few of the larger installations on your explorations of the neighbourhood, but there are many which even local Sydneysiders haven’t seen before, hidden away where you’d least expect to find art. Sometimes, you only need to look up to find them.
Here are some of our local favourites…
Tucked away in an unsuspecting location, just a couple of blocks from the hotel is the art installation, Aspire by artist Warren Langley. It features striking glowing golden trees which appear to rise up and hold the weight of the overhead freeway – a direct reference to the community action in nearby Fig Street, which resulted in the preservation of local housing which was to have been demolished for the freeway. The sculpture in light is a metaphor for the action taken.
Fig Street and Allen Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009
No matter the time of day, you can still look up and see “the night sky” in Darling Harbour, rain, hail or shine. Tucked up into the ceiling at the Pier Street Underpass are golden shapes against a painted stream of blues and blacks. This is The Night Sky’ by urban Aboriginal artist Jacob Nash, Sydney Festival’s inaugural Creative Artist in Residence for 2022. The Canopy represents what it would have looked and felt like to look at the night sky on the evening of 28 April 1770 before Captain Cook landed on these shores.
Pier Street, Darling Harbour NSW 2009
Ever Green Wall
Look no further than Aiden Darling Harbour for your fix of hidden art. On an internal wall hidden away in one part of the hotel is the Ever Green Wall, a 25-metre-high mural visible from just a select few guest rooms. The artwork is inspired by Sydney’s native flora, including lush green subtropical plants depicted across this soaring wall, painted by award-winning Australian fine artist, Jessica Le Clerc. Jess also created the unique wall murals of wattle blooms (a nod to Pyrmont’s Black Wattle Bay) on the bedheads of most of the hotel’s 88 rooms.
45 Murray Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009
The Hordern Fountain
Just a hop from the hotel is The Hordern Fountain, where Pyrmont Street, Edward Street and Pyrmont Bridge Road meet. The fountain was gifted to Sydney in 1896 by prominent trading businessman Samuel Hordern at a time when drinking water was scarce. Made from local sandstone and featuring a cupid standing on a stepped base, the fountain still stands today in its original location, although it’s no longer in working condition.
4030 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Night and Day, Day and Night
Take a stroll to Darling Square and seek out Night and Day, Day and Night – a bright, angular and playful installation suspended above Steam Mill Lane by South Australian graphic designer, jeweller and artist, Peta Kruger. She designed and built eight large and colourful geometric shapes that are now suspended above the street as if floating. At night neon lights flick on inside the shapes to illuminate the shapes, colours and the street below.
35 Tumbalong Boulevard, Haymarket NSW 2000
Woodward Water Feature
You might simply stroll past this one without noticing or appreciating it. Down on the Cockle Bay Promenade you will find the Woodward Water Feature, a spiralling fountain water feature widely considered to be one of the most important works of renowned local architect and designer, Robert Woodward. Built in 1988, it’s now heritage-listed and often appears in Instagram feeds of visitors who are taken by its mesmerising shallow ripples.
14 Darling Drive, Sydney NSW 2000
Tied To Tide
On the watersedge of Pirrama Park is the mesmerising Tied to Tide kinetic sculpture. This art installation translates the eternal return of the tides as well as the more unpredictable wave wash and wind chop of Sydney Harbour. The red ladders respond to the wind, and counter-balanced hardwood beams are connected to a float that shifts with the water’s movements. The tides lower and raise the beams, at high tide they are high above the waterline and recede at low tide. In calm conditions, the beams bob gently, when it is choppy their action is more punchy and staccato.
Pirrama Park, 22-24 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Life From A Suitcase
When exploring Sydney Harbour’s foreshore, you may come across the life-size bronze sculpture Life From A Suitcase, created by Terrance Plowright and gifted to Australia as a celebration of immigration. You’ll find it at Pyrmont’s redeveloped wharves 12 and 13, where Sydney’s reserve passenger terminal was located until 1994, where many immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s first stood on Australian soil. The sculpture was commissioned by Sydney local Paul Signorelli to honour migrants who have helped build Australia, including his own father Biaggio Signorelli who immigrated from Sicily, Italy in 1954. The Signorelli family went on to establish Doltone House, a collection of event venues around Sydney.
48A Pirrama Road, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Just a five-minute stroll from the hotel is one of Sydney’s largest digital art installations, data.scape. Covering four metres by 96 metres of the ICC Sydney’s wall, this gigantic screen constantly displays streams of moving data against striking, colourful backgrounds. Created by Ryoji Ikeda, one of Japan’s leading visual artists, by day the installation shows an interpretation of the DNA sequences of the human genome, and by night shows a map of constellations positioning the earth in our solar system.
14 Darling Drive, Sydney NSW 2000
So much more than the perfect picnic spot, Waterfront Park is dotted with several artistic installments, including Metamorphosis, a multi-element sculpture, the pieces of which, like the basic elements of the site, remain constant, only their orientation and one’s perception of them changes. There’s also three huge rusted steel balls, or “digesters”, salvaged from the site, which formerly housed the famed Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) factory operating from the 1870s to 1990s.
Bowman Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Keep your eyes peeled for building facade works when you’re in Darling Square, and you might spot the 10-storey high mural of Wiradjuri Elder and Australian legend, Jenny Munro, painted on the side of the Novotel. A fierce activist for the rights of Indigenous Australians for decades, she has been honored with this huge scale portrait.
100 Murray Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Sitting high above Little Hay Street is City Lights, a neon-fuelled art installation by West Australian artist, Brendan van Hek. Composed from old neon signs and fused together to create a new, bright and energetic light sculpture. His artwork is a reflection of the landscape that makes up Darling Square, representing the busy hive of movement, energy and the already light soaked area of Chinatown.
Little Hay Street, Haymarket NSW 2000
You can appreciate this piece of street art no matter the season, Memory Tree is an intricate, kinetic-lit, eight metre-high ‘tree’ in the NewLife Darling Harbour precinct. Created by international artist Xia Hang, the artwork was designed to reflect the site’s history, present and future and is made up of an impressive 2000 pieces of stainless steel.
495 Harris Street, Ultimo NSW 2007