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1 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne – Richard Beck Mural

This mosaic mural is located on the east elevation of Hosie‚Äôs Hotel at the corner of Flinders Street and Elizabeth Street. The mural is by Richard Beck and was installed in 1955. The Hosie’s Hotel was completed in 1955 designed by Mussen, McKay and Potter in the Internationalist, modern style. The new Hotel had a glass fronted podium and a tower behind it. It retained an echo of the European Di Stijl style with its smooth finishes and the integration of art and architecture with the inclusion of Beck’s mural as a major feature of the building. The architects always planned to incorporate a mural into the Elizabeth Street facade of the building. Beck’s work is four storeys high and made of ceramic tile panels. The abstract image of 3 glasses (or pots) clinking together, was considered bold at the time and the colours, since faded, were bright and highly contrasted. The mural is of historic importance for its connection to the modernist movement in architecture and design in Melbourne. This modernism was important as the city of Melbourne attempted to present itself to the world as a modern, contemporary city at the time of the 1956 Olympic Games. The mural is of aesthetic significance as one of the few large scale abstract works on public display in Melbourne. It is also of importance for its association with Richard Beck an important Australian commercial graphic designer of the 1950s who worked on design projects for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. The mural is included on the Victorian Heritage Register H2094.

The VHRF funding application was for conservation of the mural, including removal of previous bad repairs, stabilisation of detaching tiles, regrouting of tiles and preparation of a photographic record of the mural.
In November 2019, the VHRF Committee awarded a grant of $55,000 towards the conservation of the Richard Beck mural. This was part of the City of Melbourne Landmark and Community Buildings funding stream run in the 2020 financial year.

Conservator Andrew Thorn undertook the conservation work between September and December 2021. The most impactful work undertaken was the careful removal of a white film that had formed over almost the entire mosaic. This film was removed using a poultice. The removal of the film has brought back the colour and vibrancy of the original mural. Other work involved removal of fixings for previous signage on the mural and repair of penetrations relating to the fixings. Crack and tile and mortar repairs were also undertaken in specific locations across the mural.
The transformation of the appearance of the mural as a result of the conservation work is remarkable and the process of conservation was meticulously undertaken and documented.