In Arts + Entertainment

What Not To Miss At This Year’s Sculptures By The Sea

What do you get when you cross the majestic Bondi coastline with acclaimed art from around the world? Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea, of course.

Plus you get not only the world’s largest annual free-to-the-public outdoor sculpture exhibition but one of Sydney’s most beloved and photographed events.

Now in its 23rd year, Bondi’s famous Sculpture by the Sea spectacle attracts almost half a million visitors over the course of 18 days until its close Sunday, November 10, 2019, and unofficially signals the beginning of summer in the Harbour City.

Sculptures By The Sea 2019

“This year’s exhibition raises the bar even higher than previous editions,” says NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. “Nowhere else in the world can you find such an inspiring combination of natural beauty, diverse architecture and, of course, cutting-edge art.

It’s a challenge each year to enhance one of NSW’s most vibrant spaces but each year Sculpture by the Sea brings something fresh and exciting to the Bondi Beach to Tamarama coastal walk.”

International acclaim

In 2019, over 100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world once again help transform the iconic coastline into a 2km long sculpture park.

And this year’s exhibition is extra special because not only does it celebrate 30 years since the ‘Velvet Revolution’ with specific works from Czech and Slovakian artists but it also includes ‘Succah by the Sea’, an installation where six Sydney architects have reimagined the rich Jewish ritual of Succot.

The most acclaimed exhibit this year, and winner of the prestigious $70,000 Aqualand Sculpture Award, was New Zealand sculptor Morgan Jones’ The Sun Also Rises set on the sand of Tamarama Beach. But it was the local artwork that was drawing the most attention and praise.

Local talent

None more so than Joel Adler’s Viewfinder, which takes pride of place on the clifftop walk right by Marks Park. The North Bondi-born 26-year-old says he left himself only four days to get his entry in, but once he found the exact spot to place the piece, he knew it would work.

“I did the walk and started thinking of ideas and came to this exact point here [where Viewfinder is situated] and thought ‘there’s the opportunity to reflect something which you wouldn’t have seen’,” says Adler.

Sculptures By The Sea 2019

“The idea to put the mirror in came very quickly – figuring out how to actually get it there and holding it and cantilever, that took a lot of time. But I was inspired by that exact spot and the dimensions are made for that to make it work.”

The Sculpture by the Sea debutant not only got to showcase his artwork in a prime position but also received the Clitheroe Foundation Mentorship, where he got to work with renowned NSW artist Chris Fox.

“I’ve done [the Sculpture by the Sea walk] many, many times and the ones that I remember are the works that give you that little surprise, or that element where you think it’s something and then you get a different understanding of it. Which is what my one is.

“Walking up to it, I’ve heard people say things about it before they see the mirror, like ‘this is ugly’… [But] it’s got this rusty, industrial feel on purpose to make it stand out. And then when you see the mirror, it kind of makes sense why it exists.”

Could Viewfinder stay put?

Adler was humble when describing his popular piece, saying “I’m kind of taking credit for natural beauty”. The emerging designer has definitely been overawed by not just being part of Sydney’s famous exhibition but from the reaction to his exhibit as well.

“I’d love to make more of these and put them in other places, ideally in coastal cities. Everyone’s saying ‘can we keep it here!?’, people want to petition the council to keep it. It’s also stopping people walking on those cliffs because usually on a day like today you see 10 or 20 tourists trying to get that perfect photo, but now this is kind of doing it for them.”

Raising the bar

The problem now for Adler – and for a lot of the other artists at this year’s Sculpture by the Sea – is they’ve set the bar so high with so many incredible pieces, how do they top it next year (and in subsequent years)? Well, for 23 years artists have been raising the bar and the Federal Minister for the Arts, Paul Fletcher, reckons they’ll continue to do so with ease.

Sculptures By The Sea 2019

“When first proposed, the concept was original and even audacious,” says the Minister. “But from the outset, Australians have responded enthusiastically – coming in large numbers to view the works and react to them – sometimes with wonder, sometimes with laughter, at other times deeply moved.

In the process, many sculptors, Australian and international, have had their works – and their art form – seen and appreciated by large audiences.

“Few projects anywhere in the world have had as much impact as Sculpture by the Sea in making world-class art accessible and enjoyable to large numbers of people.”

Long may that continue.

(All images: Sculptures By The Sea / supplied) 

Published 24 October, 2019