Crown heralds the new Lunar Year with inspiring public tribute to Australians who embody the strength of the Ox

Acclaimed photographer Sam Wong brings the Year of the Ox to life with a powerful portrait series on Crown’s iconic Riverwalk fire towers – showcasing everyday Aussies exemplifying extraordinary strength. 

To welcome the new Lunar Year, Crown Melbourne is unveiling a public art series along Crown’s iconic fire towers, Portraits of Strength. A touching two-week tribute, the display champions the stories of six everyday Aussie heroes in a collection of stunning portraits, creating a striking urban gallery along the Crown Riverwalk.

Portraits of Strength is an emotive art series by Hong Kong-born photographer Sam Wong that embraces the sense of community and resilience born from the extraordinary challenges of 2020, and encourages strength for the upcoming year. Pertinent to the characteristics of this year’s zodiac animal, each Australian profiled personifies the key traits of the Ox – strength, diligence, reliability, honesty and commitment.

From the brave Infectious Diseases Nurse who comforted coronavirus patients in their final moments, to the inspiring mother who cooked weekly meals for the homeless, or the SES fire fighter who battled the devastating 2019–20 bushfire disaster, the stories aim to encourage reflection and inspire strength as we move into the New Year.

Chief Executive Officer of Crown Melbourne, Xavier Walsh, says the display aims to invoke contemplation and celebrate the human spirit after what has been an incredibly trying year.

“Our Portraits of Strength exhibition recognises what Australians have suffered and endured over the last 12 months and celebrates our strength and courage as a community as we look forward to a more hopeful 2021,” he says.

“Celebrating Lunar New Year has become a big part of Melbourne’s heritage and is a key cultural event on the calendar. After the year that we’ve all had, we wanted to celebrate the occasion in a manner that inspires confidence, strength and encourages visitors back into the CBD to soak up all that this great city has to offer.”

Local photographer Sam Wong – whose work has been exhibited in New York, Hong Kong and Melbourne – was commissioned for the project and tasked with capturing the essence and emotion of each individual’s story.

“Lunar New Year is a very important holiday in Chinese culture and to me personally. While I was unable to visit my family this year to celebrate, I was really honoured to be part of this project and help bring these inspiring stories to light through the art of photography – the perfect symbolism for the intrinsic nature of the Ox,” he says.

Embodying the Ox characteristics of strength and reliability, one inspiring face featured within the Portraits of Strength series is Infectious Diseases Nurse from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Laura Keily, who says she’s humbled to be representing the cohort of healthcare workers who worked tirelessly throughout Victoria’s first and second coronavirus wave.

“It was a privilege for me to be there for patients during their most vulnerable moments, a time usually reserved for close friends and family. I’m truly honoured to have featured within the Portraits of Strength exhibition and equally loved learning about the stories of other strong and resilient Australians,” she says.

For more than 20 years, Crown Melbourne has celebrated Lunar New Year with numerous festivities. In line with its COVID-safe celebrations on the Riverwalk, Crown Melbourne will come alive with its signature Zodiac Spectacular within The Atrium at Crown Towers, featuring larger-than-life luminous sculptures. Lion dance teams and other roving performers will also bring the resort to life daily from Friday, 12 February to Sunday, 21 February.

There’s also an array of culinary offerings across Crown Melbourne’s stable of restaurants. Both Koko and Silks launched limited-time Lunar New Year set menus on Monday, 7 February, in addition to a selection of new menu items designed for feasting with friends and family.

Portraits of Strength was unveiled on Thursday, 11 January ahead of Lunar New Year (Friday, 12 February) along the Crown Riverwalk at Southbank and will run for two weeks.

Main image: (l-r) Sallie Jones, David Michalowsky, Laura Keily, Sam Wong & Cecelia Chuah

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