Case Studies

Michael Meszaros’ “Distant conversations”

Distant Conversations by Michael Meszaros
Footpath figures looking in at interior sculptures

Michael Meszaros is the sculptor who created the well-known piece ‘Distant Conversations’, which for 17 years was installed in the foyer of the Telstra Building in Melbourne and generally considered one of the top ten contemporary sculptures in the Melbourne CBD. As a former member of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, Michael was also instrumental in the original push for recognition of artists’ moral rights, which were introduced as legislation in 2000.

In October 2009, Telstra contacted Michael to inform him that they intended to remodel its foyer to install a Telstra shop and remove ‘Distant Conversations’. This would was likely to require the sculpture – valued at around $1 million – to be taken apart. Hoping to save his work, Michael turned to Arts Law.

As part of Arts Law’s document review service, we arranged for him to have an advice session with Melbourne lawyer Dr. Mark Williams who, in the 1990s, had been heavily involved in the framing of Australia’s moral rights legislation along with Arts Law. Mark provided close to four hours of volunteer legal advice for Michael, and was subsequently keen to take the matter on personally.

Telstra delayed the dismantling of the sculpture while negotiations took place to find an outcome acceptable to all. Much to Michael’s satisfaction, the sculpture was finally acquired by Grollo Australia who agreed to fund its removal, storage, and eventual relocation. The removal took place under Michael’s supervision and the sculpture has been carefully stored awaiting future reinstallation at a new venue. This outcome received coverage in The Australian on 5 December 2009 which described it as a ‘moral victory’ for the artist.