PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM FRAWLEY
It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque trail than the cliff walk between Sydney’s Bondi and Tamarama Beaches. But, during each Southern Hemisphere spring since 1997, that scenic promenade has played second fiddle to an even more showstopping display: Sculpture by the Sea, the world’s largest free open-air art exhibition, which attracts more than half a million visitors to see 100 installations from artists around the world.
“The starting point for the show was that the world needed more free things,” says founding director David Handley, who became inspired to start the show in the mid-1990s, when he visited a Czech sculpture park. The key to making it work in Sydney, he thought, would be to skip the pretension of big-ticket biennials and play to the strengths of the surfer-haven surroundings. “I had quite a chip on my shoulder, as an Australian, that people didn’t pay attention to us, except for a ’roo, a rock, and a reef,” Handley says, “but I still wanted us to be quintessentially Australian—laid-back, by the beach.”
The sculptures certainly take advantage of one of Sydney’s signature settings, the rocky outcroppings and sandy beaches of Bondi. Last year’s lineup included such favorites as Damien Hirst Looking for Sharks (pictured), an inflatable piece fabricated by the studio Cool S*** that perfectly complements its watery backdrop.
“I love the notion of artists as dreamers, but they’re often not in a position to act on the dreams,” Handley says. “We set the stage for them to play on.”
October 24–November 10, sculpturebythesea.com