Portrait of Penelope Seidler. Photo by Michael Young for ArtAsiaPacific.

Grand Designs

Penelope Seidler

Protruding from a wall in Penelope Seidler’s Sydney penthouse is a three-dimensional painting by American minimalist Frank Stella. With its vivid colors, curves and jagged aluminum layers, Midnight Aloft (1988) complements the winding staircase next to it, and dominates the otherwise blank surface. If the design seems fortuitous, it is because the piece had been developed specifically for the home by Stella, a longtime collaborator of Seidler and her late husband. The artist had first worked with the couple under the Harry Seidler & Associates firm, who were pioneers in bringing Modern and Bauhaus-principled architecture to Australia. Established by Harry in 1949, the firm is currently led by Seidler herself, who as CEO manages public and private architectural projects in her brutalist-style office. This space, and the adjacent penthouse, which oozes a film-noir glamor, houses a collection of artworks that testify to a life enmeshed with art and architecture, and the Seidlers’ roles in transforming what was once an insular Australia into an active site of international cultural discourse.

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