1999 Bondi Exhibition Catalogue Essay: An Essay on Public Sculpture by Michael Hedger

Posted: October 23, 1999 / Bondi Exhibition Catalogue Essays, Essays

Orest Keywan, with a view, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 1999. Photo Clyde Yee.

In only three years, Sculpture by the Sea has firmly established its place on the Sydney and Australian art calendars and has helped to reinvigorate interest in the most dramatic of visual arts forms. Finding exhibition spaces for sculpture has always been problematic so this annual exhibition means an excellent avenue for sculptors to display their works and its success as a public event highlights the interest in public art. The fact that this exhibition is now attracting international artists testifies to its growing reputation.

Whether the works compete with their spectacular natural setting or attempt to blend with it, they are objects that demand attention and demand that viewers use their cognitive powers to interpret their strength, wit, subtlety and scale as well as appreciating their technical skill.

Sculpture by the Sea complements the long history of sculpture in the Australian natural and built environments, where decoration for ceremonial or commemorative purposes is traditional. The open air sites of indigenous painting and sculpture, nineteenth century parks with their classical figures, civic plazas filled with commemorative monuments and the commissions that decorate foyers and walls of large corporate buildings all show the interest in and need for public art.

It is well to remind ourselves of this as reporting of public sculpture in the media is usually restricted to controversial commissions and placements or issues such as vandalism. Public sculpture is mostly well received as it provides embellishment to the landscape and relief from the formality and scale of built environments.

People do like to see art outdoors and the range of work in such a large exhibition as this, ensures that they will find something to please them.

Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery is extremely fortunate to be the beneficiary of the sculpture awarded the Sydney Water Sculpture Prize. The generosity of sponsor Sydney Water means that eastern Sydney sees the full range of entries and western Sydney keeps the award winning work .

Campbelltown is currently developing a Sculpture Garden, designed by lain Brammer, to complement the Gallery and its Japanese Garden, and this will be the home of the winning work. Campbelltown City Council has gained matching funding from the Commonwealth Government’s Federation fund for the landscaping of this garden and it will open in mid 2000.

The 1998 prize, Campbell Robertson-Swann’s Night Passage, has been installed in the grounds and it proudly announces the Gallery and its developing cultural precinct. It will be joined by this year’s winner, providing Campbelltown with a pair of major sculptural works of our tum of the century period, to begin a major sculptural collection.

We are very grateful to Sydney Water for their gifts and to David Handley of sculpture by the sea for arranging the partnership.

Michael Hedger
Director, Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery and author, Public Sculpture in Australia

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