Five years before Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen collaborated on the first of their iconic public sculptures, another husband-and-wife team envisioned inflating the quotidian into an object of wonder. In 1971, on a pineapple plantation near the town of Woombye, on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, Bill and Lyn Taylor decided to erect a 16-metre-high fibreglass pineapple. This tropical hallucination had an observation deck tucked under its tuft of spiky leaves and a state-of-the-art audio-visual facility within the fruit facade. For countless Australians, visiting the pineapple became an irresistible rite of passage.
My family made the pilgrimage by car in the 1980s. Was it the first amusement park we’d visited? How else to explain finding entertainment in riding the ‘nut-mobile’, a bus with macadamia-shaped carriages, while a voice on the pa described the finer points of tropical fruit growing?
But then, part of the thrill of travelling to the Big Pineapple was being able to tick it off the list. Nationwide, provincial entrepreneurs began to build oversize monuments to transform their struggling towns into unmissable pit-stops on a kind of Antipodean grand tour. This was kitsch as a means of survival. Had my family had the time and resources, we could also have taken in the Big Banana, the Big Cow, the Big Penguin, the Big Koala, the Big Merino, the Big Playable Guitar, the Big Rolling Pin – and, in a nod to the nation’s main interests – the Big Miner, the Big Wicket, even the Big Thumbs Up. Our country was evolving into a vast ironic sculpture park, potentially the world’s premier pop
Alas, by 2009, people expected more for their entertainment dollar and the Big Pineapple went into receivership. Along with most of the other ‘Big’ sites, it’s now melancholy and dilapidated.