Mark Twain famously said ‘Golf is a good walk … ruined’. Bondi locals possibly think that Sculpture by the Sea is a good coastal walk ruined not so much by the sculptures as by the thousands of visitors who have flocked to it for the last 19 years. The truth is the perfect, breath-taking beauty of the cliff walk between Bondi and Tamarama doesn’t need the sculptures but the sculptures benefit greatly from the cliff walk. It delivers more viewers than would ever see or notice the works in other locations.
The themes of many of the works are ‘right-on’ enviromentally correct just in case we hadn’t noticed that we are in the midst of one of the glories of nature. Despite their enviromental earnestness some of the sculptures are amusing and charming even while some may be seen as visual pollutants. But the public love the show and will keep coming until it closes on 8 November.
Started on a shoestring in 1997 by David Handley, the exhibition was given a significant boost when it was included in the Sydney Cultural Olympiad’s 1998 Arts Festival A Sea Change. In that year there were five exhibitions around Australia at Darwin, Noosa, Albany and the Tasman Peninsula in addition to Bondi. Links with Tasmania continue and in 2005 Cottesloe’s Sculpture by the Sea was launched. Its 12th iteration will open on 4 March 2016 on a gorgeous pocket of beach blessed by the Indian Ocean. They make a good walk.
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