Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sculpture by the Sea

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to visit Australia’s eastern coastline, you’ve no doubt been blown away by the spectacular landscape, rugged terrain and stunningly wild ocean views of the South Pacific. It’s no wonder then that David Handley, founding director of Sculpture by the Sea, chose Sydney’s 2km coastal walk that stretches from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach, as the scene for his world-famous annual outdoor sculpture exhibit.

Handley launched the first exhibit ten years ago. Since then, every summer has seen original, abstract, and eye-catching works of art peppering the cliffs to a backdrop of open sky and sea.

Handley’s reasons for creating the exhibit are numerous and impassioned: “In Australia we are evolving our cultural identity and developing a sophistication alongside the traditional athletic hedonism of beach,” he says. “I created Sculpture by the Sea because I wanted to create something that reflected what I thought of Sydney and how I wanted Sydney to be projected to the world.”

Not a fan of “unbridaled capitalism,” Handley also wanted to be able to provide a free and engaging art exhibit to the public that would be supported by wealthy individuals and major corporations of Sydney. “There’s not much that is free in the world,” he says, “but as the saying goes: The best things in life are free!”

The contributing artists are selected by a curatorial panel of two (one of whom is always a sculptor themselves). Each year over 600 artists from around the world apply for a coveted chance to display and sell their works, with just over 100 artists making the cut. This year, 106 sculptures will be displayed by artists from 19 countries, including Japan, Iceland, Pakistan, France, the United States and, of course, Australia.

As well as the outdoor pieces, two venues along the coastal walk will host smaller wall and floor pieces. The exhibit is believed to be the biggest annual selling exhibition of sculpture in the world with prices varying from six figure sums to as little as AUD$300 (€190), “all in keeping with our ‘something for everyone’ philosophy,” adds Handley.

Handley sees the exhibition as an opportunity to provide artists with a “space in which to play”. His ethos about art centers around the idea that artists are free spirits and, as such, should be allowed “artistic freedom”. Of curated and themed exhibits he expresses his disdain: “There’s nothing worse in the visual arts, in my mind, than a public art project brief that says the sculpture must actively relate to local history, social issues, etc. Art can be and has historically been wonderful, simply because it is beautiful and magnificent.”

And from which countries does Handley see some of the best emerging talent this year? “Some of the most beautiful sculptures are coming from Japan,” he says. He names Keizo Ushio, Harayuki Uchida and Yoshio Nitta as ones to watch. He also highlights his partiality to some young Australian sculptors, including Angus Adameitis, who works with scrap metal, and Alex Seton, whose marble sculptures include a sofa that gives the illusion of being soft, plush and inviting.

Around 500,000 visitors, including collectors from around the world, are expected to attend the exhibit, which will be on display in Sydney from November 1-18 and then transported to Australia’s equally breath-taking western coast – on Cottesloe Beach, Perth – from March 8-18.

More details here

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