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Deborah Halpern is one of Australia’s most celebrated sculptors, known for her wildly colourful mosaic work.
Creator of many of Melbourne’s most loved public sculptures, Halpern’s works exude an innate vitality and alluring simplicity. Spontaneous in form, her creatures are painted in a style that recalls visions of Gaudi, Picasso and the playful surrealism of French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, yet all have become distinctly Halpernesque in their ability to delight and surprise.
Halpern is a multi-disciplinary artist who explores the mediums of sculpture, painting, pottery, glass blowing and printmaking. Her work can be exuberant and whimsical but is also imbued with a deep artistry.
Over her 33-year career Halpern has produced an extraordinary body of work and through her numerous public sculptures has become well known and respected within the community.
One of Halpern’s biggest and world-renowned sculptures, Angel, stood in the moat of the National Gallery of Victoria for many years before it was moved to its current location on the bank of the Yarra River at Birrarung Marr, besides Federation Square.
In her particular world view, Deborah Halpern was greatly influenced by her parents, artists Sylvia and Artek Halpern, who would often speak to Deborah of the ‘brotherhood of man’, and Halpern came to see the planet as her family.
As a teenager she was increasingly aware of the paradoxes and injustices of the world. She donated as much as possible to the Guide Dogs Association, Green Peace and Amnesty International, but felt that $10 per week wasn’t making enough of a difference. Deborah thought she could make a bigger contribution, so she made that challenge part of her future.
Halpern began her artistic career training as an apprentice in ceramic works in 1976. In her mid-twenties, she was introduced to members of the Hunger Project, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to make a fundamental impact in the world’s most poverty-stricken areas. The group had a policy of instigating programs only upon the invitation of communities to do so, and of initiating conversations with members of those communities to directly address their needs. The people behind the Hunger Project had been a part of the Landmark Forum, now a widely-known motivational seminar series operating worldwide, and in the mid-1980s Halpern decided to attend.
A sculptor and a potter by trade, Deborah Halpern had been commissioned in 1987 by the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Bicentennial Authority to create a sculpture for the south moat of the NGV’s St Kilda Road site. She was intimidated by the scale of the project, and found the Forum helped her to realise her potential. With an original grant of $25,000, the sculpture, Angel, became a far bigger project than was originally intended, and Halpern had to meet costs by fundraising.
Empowered by her success with Angel, Halpern pledged $100,000 to the Hunger Project within one year. She and her then husband Malcolm took on as many commissions as possible until the money had been raised.
Today, with her sculptural pieces fetching handsome sums, Halpern donates $5,000 to $25,000 annually to any number of organisations. She sees the $100,000 gift as having been a one-off challenge, and now maintains a trust account. Between 10 May and 23 July 2006, the Ian Potter Centre at the NGV held Angel, an exhibition of Halpern’s work, to coincide with the relocation of that original public sculpture to the Yarra bank at Birrarung Marr.
Annually, Deborah donates money and time to many different causes.
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Harvey Galleries was founded by the Harvey family in 1994 with an eye to establish a dynamic and inclusive contemporary art space on the North Shore of Sydney. For almost three decades we have expanded our reach to over three gallery locations and an ever expanding stable of the best artists Australia has to offer.
Harvey Galleries acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which our galleries stand. The Guringai people (Seaforth), the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation (Sydney), and the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation (Melbourne).
We pay our respect to Elders past and present.
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