Why do hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom would never visit an art gallery, spend a few hours every November filing along a narrow cliff-top path past sculpture?
Simply because there is no public art event, anywhere in the world, as spectacular or as much fun as this one. No, I haven’t seen them all, but I defy anything to beat this.
I have seen the spin-off sculpture by the sea in Aarhus, Denmark and the Artzuid project in Amsterdam, which ran for months and featured big names like Rodin and Dali. They too were excellent, but neither came close to matching the excitement and interest generated by the Sydney event.
David Handley, the show’s founding director, put his finger on it in his interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. ‘The location by the sea has a lot to do with it.’
More than a lot, I would say. Where else within a kilometre or so can you find clifftops, beach, grassy knolls, crashing surf and the chance of seeing whales passing?
Walking from Bondi to Tamarama is a fine thing to do at any time of year. It wouldn’t matter too much if the sculpture were second rate, but in fact it’s very good. This year’s exhibition features Bert Flugelman, Anthony Caro, Ken Unsworth and Chinese sculptors Chen Wen Ling and Wang Shugang.
‘People love the surprise and delight of some of the works. And, if there’s a particular sculpture they don’t like, they just walk straight past them,’ Handley said. ‘They don’t feel as if anyone is looking over their shoulder and saying they don’t have what it takes to understand the show. That’s a big part of it. It’s the beach. People don’t wear much at the beach – we let our guard down. People can walk past.’ Read more here.
And I did like this work by Richard Tipping…
There’s something very democratic about placing art out in the domain of the joggers and dog walkers. The expert jury chooses winners in various categories, and people can scoff ‘What could they possibly see in that rubbish?’, then cast their own vote in the people’s choice award.
Most interesting I find the work that refers to its setting. Sculptors can float their work in the water, or perch it on a headland to provide a frame for the horizon. They can place it in a rock crevice or tumbling down a grassy slope. Kinetic work moves with every breath of wind off the sea. Memorable works from past exhibitions were the melting ice-cream van and the toddler lost on the beach.
When the show opens there is no entrance fee, no pressure to buy, it’s BYO drinks and nibbles and there’s no dress code.
Sculpture by the Sea is on in Sydney until November 20, 2011. Everybody is welcome.
More sculpture tomorrow – promise.