Vault (sculpture)

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Vault at Southbank, pictured in 2005.
Artist Ron Robertson-Swann
Year 1978 (1978)
Type abstract, minimalist
Medium prefabricated steel
Location Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Southbank, Victoria, Australia[1]
Coordinates 37°49′33.87″S 144°58′3.82″E / 37.8260750°S 144.9677278°E / -37.8260750; 144.9677278Coordinates: 37°49′33.87″S 144°58′3.82″E / 37.8260750°S 144.9677278°E / -37.8260750; 144.9677278

Vault (popularly known as the Yellow Peril) is a public sculpture located in Melbourne, Australia. The work of sculptor Ron Robertson-Swann, Vault is an abstract, minimalist sculpture built of large thick flat polygonal sheets of prefabricated steel, assembled in a way that suggests dynamic movement. It is painted yellow.

Presently located outside the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, it is a key work in Melbourne's public art collection, and of considerable historical importance to the city.

Vault has weathered much controversy throughout its existence. Commissioned by the Melbourne City Council after winning a competition in May 1978,[2] for the newly built Melbourne City Square, the sculpture was not even built before it began to attract criticism from conservative media and council factions, on the grounds that its modern form was felt to be unsympathetic to the location. The cost of $70,000 was also felt to be excessive. The sculpture, which officially had no title until Robertson-Swann settled on Vault in September 1980, had previously been referred to as "The Thing"; the workmen who took more than eight weeks to construct it called it "Steelhenge", was given the derogatory nickname "The Yellow Peril" by the newspapers, a name which has stuck.[2]

Installed in the City Square in May 1980, Vault lasted until December of that year, when its dismantling coincided with the State Government's sacking of the City Council. The Builders Labourers Federation consequently placed bans on further City Square work projects.

In 1981, the Vault was re-erected at Batman Park, a less prominent part of the city. It remained there until 2002 when it was moved to a position outside the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Southbank.[3]

In 2017, the sculpture was recommended for heritage protection, through inclusion in the City of Melbourne Planning Scheme Heritage Overlay, following a heritage study of the Southbank Area.[4]


  1. ^ "Vault". Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  2. ^ a b Attwood, Alan (2004-06-19). "Peril in the Square: The Sculpture that Challenged a City". Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  3. ^ Masanauskas, John (2012-09-24). "Yellow Peril set to return to Swanston St". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  4. ^ 'Controversial Vault sculpture to get heritage protection in Southbank planning review', IAN ROYALL AND JAYITRI SMILES, Herald Sun 6 November 2017