Sculpture by the Sea

Sculpture by the Sea is the largest annual, free-to-the-public sculpture exhibition. Since 1997 it has inspired 1,168 artists to create more than 2,000 sculptures. In 2016, over 520,000 people visited the exhibition that featured 100 sculptures from artists across 17 different countries. Sculptures are displayed for three weeks each Spring along the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk in Sydney, Australia.

three sculptures were destroyed by a huge, unprecedented sea swell


Founding director David Handley has revealed how it has grown from zero budget into a government subsidised and sponsored event to help artist’s cover their installation costs. Each artist receives $2,000 towards the $10,000 on average spent on materials, fabrication and freight of their sculpture. The artist who wins the best sculpture award walks away with a $60,000 prize.

However it has not always been smooth sailing. The exhibition almost didn’t happen this year due to lack of funding. A last minute deal was finally secured with a new major sponsor. Even though it is one of Sydney’s most popular cultural events, David Handley has requested for more government support to secure the future of Sculpture by the Sea. One of the biggest expenses comes from the cost of overnight security for the sculptures over the three weeks. Donations from the public and many volunteers help the community of Sydney claim it as their own.

In 2016, three sculptures were destroyed by a huge, unprecedented sea swell and high tide just before the exhibition opened. Sightseers watched as sculptures were dragged into the ocean including a protest piece by Bronek Kozka titled “Fair Dinkum Offshore Processing” about refugee processing. It was only the second time that an artwork has been washed away festival’s 20-year history.

There’s a special vibe along the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. A combination of the relentless ocean, sea breeze and afternoon light make it a magic place. With the weather effecting the mood of the place, it proves to be quite the distraction from the sculptures at times.

From the locals jogging, ducking between the tourists to the dogs running through Mark’s park, it’s a unique experience to see the diversity of people admiring the natural landscape.