But it could all be coming to an end thanks to an obscure argument over a ribbon of concrete.
Organisers have threatened to pull out of Bondi from next year after the local council built a 1.8-metre wide footpath to allow people with disabilities to see the exhibit.
Organisers have been fighting with Waverley Council over the design of the new path, which they say will “greatly compromise” the exhibition.
In July, organisers said they were actively looking for a new home, calling for expressions of interest from other coastal councils in Sydney and around Australia.
Handley says the 279m long concrete path will interfere with the spring event, therefore threatening to pull the event from Bondi over the issue.
“Ask the artists here, would you spend $25,000 to put your sculpture next to a concrete path,” he says.
“If we’ve lost eight of our 10 top spots, the window to the world, we’re just a suburban show.
“Now, we might be a glamorous suburban show (but) we will die a very slow and painful death,” he says.
When asked about the council’s stated reason for the path – that it is complying with UN guidelines for disability access to public areas, he fakes a sneeze while cursing.
Sculpture by the Sea is a series of exhibitions presented at Bondi, from 24 October – 10 November 2019 and at Cottesloe Beach in Perth from 6 – 23 March 2020.
Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi began in 1997, as a one-day exhibition run by volunteers featuring works by 64 artists and attended by 25,000 visitors.
Since then, the event has grown to become the largest annual sculpture exhibition in the world featuring numerous esteemed international artists and now includes 111 artworks from 19 countries including Australia.
A highlight of this year’s exhibition is a showcase of 10 acclaimed Czech and Slovak artists in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, including a work by Czech Republic’s most infamous and controversial artist, David Cerný, who famously painted the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews memorial in Prague pink in 1991.
Another feature is David Nobay’s work titled Dunny, an installation from the exterior is an authentic country thunderbox. Thanks to the magic of virtual reality viewers are transported into an opulent bathroom.
New Zealand artist Morgan Jones took out the event’s top prize worth $70,000, with his sculpture, The Sun Also Rises, a corten steel-construction whose title comes from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes.
Sculpture by the Sea winner Morgan Jones in front of The Sun Also Rises.
Photo Credit: Clyde Yee
The 85-year-old artist, who was born in England and emigrated to New Zealand in 1955, joked he had plenty of kilometres in his legs as he accepted the prize last Thursday.
“Thus proving the older you get as a sculptor, the better you get as a sculptor,” Jones told reporters.
Handley says the organisation has already refused an offer to sign up with Waverley Council for the next 10 years, while councils across Sydney and, one from interstate, are vying to host the show.
With negotiations ongoing in Waverley, there is still no certainty about the event’s future.
“I’m deadly serious,” says Handley, as he stands atop the sandstone circle on the edge of Marks Park overlooking the ocean where, the most eye-catching works are put on show every year.
“It would take a dramatic shift of behaviour and an understanding of, and respect for, the extraordinary lengths artists go to, for us to change our mind. The (council) either doesn’t give two hoots about the artists or they don’t understand the length the artists go to, to put on a free event to the public.”
“I’ve always viewed each Sculpture by the Sea as it comes and goes like a season,” he said. contemplatively of the free exhibition which comes in spring, this year between October 24 and November 10, heralding the arrival of summer.
“If this is the last show here, it feels like ‘that’s life’,” he said, the metaphorical shrug hanging in the air.
Pink Tank Wrecked by David Cerný
Photo Credit: Charlotte Curd