Constructed in bronze by New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai, “The World Turns” shows a 16-foot-high (five-meter-high) elephant frozen in time as it topples from a boulder. It looks as though the behemoth just finished a slow, graceful fall, having landed balanced on its head.
Get closer to the artwork, and you’ll realize the topsy-turvy elephant is staring right at a little kuril that’s curled up nearby, scratching its tail. The kuril, a water rat, is one of the many caretakers of the traditional Aboriginal land where the museum stands. The creature is linked to the mangroves that run along the Kurilpa Point shoreline on the opposite river bank.
In the artwork, the kuril has casually upended the world—and the huge elephant with it. This is meant to show that while history records just part of events, the world is always turning.
The sculpture stands outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, which opened in 2006. The artwork was installed to celebrate its fifth anniversary and the 200th anniversary of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. It cost one million dollars and was transported by a barge and truck before being lifted into place by a crane.
Know Before You Go
There’s a chair nearby for you to contemplate the piece, perhaps alongside a white Australian Ibis or a water dragon, as they’re both commonly found in the museum grounds. The Sculpture is located by the river in the heart of Brisbane’s arts precinct, which includes Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art.