Canvas :: Sculpture by the Sea

November 14th 2011


I don’t really think of Sculpture by the Sea as just an exhibition to review, really. This is ironic, as that’s exactly what I’m doing. I guess I think of it more as an experience, a day’s activity, the signifier that summer is coming and it’s dragged a heap of sculptures onto the shore with it.

This year the exhibit celebrates fifteen years at Bondi, and it’s definitely fifteen years worth celebrating. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of art to enjoy the lazy stroll from Bondi to Tamarama. I dragged along a friend who calls herself an art “philistine”, but even she thought it was great.

My favourite pieces are always the ones that try and incorporate the beach environment; they haven’t just plonked a metal sculpture onto the sand and headed to Ravesi’s. The standout work in this sense is Simon McGrath’s Who left the tap running?, which won the Sydney Water and Environment Prize. A giant cream tap with two adjoining hot and cold knobs stands majestically on the outcrop of the peninsula on the coastal walk. It feels as if McGrath has harnessed some sort of underground plumbing from the ocean and that at any moment a waterfall is going to burst out of the taps, flooding downhill, washing us passersby away. Also make sure you don’t miss Ayad Alqaragholli’s Heavenly Kiss – a fantastically balanced steel sculpture of chairs stacked on top of each other with a pair of gravity-defying lovers standing on top and joined together by a kiss.

Sculpture by the Sea might not be an art world martini; it’s not expensive and exclusive to the cultural elite. Maybe it’s more like a rosé—a summery, sugary crowd favourite; you’ll be drunk on sculptures before you know it. I was overwhelmed by the exhibition’s sheer mass; there are one hundred sculptures and it can all feel like a bit of an art overload. But then you come across those gems like Aaron Anderson and Anne Zahalka’s Open House (which is literally a house built to fit into one of rock caves) and the sheer absurdity of having an art exhibition on a seascape becomes once again a delight.

Until 20 November.


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