Janus … Australia gave it to Mexico for the 1968 Olympics. Photo: Supplied
JANUS is poised to again show a public face after a 16-year fight to put the Australian sculpture back on view in Mexico City.
A private school that in 1996 bought the land on which the artwork sits finally appears prepared to hand over the concrete sculpture by the late Melbourne-born artist Clement Meadmore.
The Australian government gave Janus to the Mexican government for the Mexico Olympics in 1968, but the Instituto Educativo Olinca's decision to retain the sculpture led to accusations the Mexican government had given Australia's gift away.
A concerted campaign by the Australian Embassy in Mexico and Meadmore's estate in New York City, where he moved in 1963 and died an American citizen in 2005 aged 78, has spurred negotiations to move the heavy sculpture back to public land.
Janus could be relocated by next month to the Ruta de la Amistad (the Route of Friendship) among more than 20 sculptures from other famous artists.
A spokesman for the Ruta de la Amistad, Gabriela Galicia Laví´ın, says in a statement: ''Time is a challenge because Janus should be at its new site no later than the second week of December, as the economic resources granted by the Mexico City's Government for transferring the sculpture are valid only in 2012. The task should be done as fast as possible.''
The New York-based president of Meadmore Sculptures, Ellen Goldberg, says it has been important for Meadmore to have Janus returned to the public gaze.
''For many years he struggled to get it moved but nothing could get it done,'' she says.
Goldberg says she is concerned the Mexican government has made funds available only this year.
There is no record to indicate whether Janus is hollow or solid, or how heavy it is. But the work is ''a very significant piece and Clement was very proud that it was built for the 1968 Olympics''.
The Instituto Educativo Olinca could not be contacted.
The Sydney-based art adviser David Hulme, of Banziger Hulme, an approved valuer for the Australian government's cultural gifts program, says he saw the sculpture in 2010 and it was still in good condition.
''There's been a momentum building for a couple of years,'' Hulme says. ''It's a very significant sculpture.''
He says the school had claimed the artwork as its own, even incorporating it into its school logo.
''Basically the school had said, 'You're not having it; it's our sculpture' … But the tide is definitely turning now.''
Hulme, who has no financial interest in Meadmore, argues the late Melbourne artist's work was ''quite sublime'' and he was our greatest sculptor - even better than Sydney-born Robert Klippel.
Meadmore's work has a ''timeless quality'' that still sells well.