sculpture by the sea

For 2 weeks each year in Sydney the 2km coastal walk from Bondi beach to Tamarama beach is transformed during the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. This afternoon I checked it out, though so far I haven’t been able to see all the works – a return visit may be in order. I love this exhibition. So too does the rest of Sydney, judging by the crowds even in the late afternoon. Each year at this time the coastal walk becomes jammed with people enjoying the elegant, the quirky and sometimes the downright weird, all with a beautiful seaside view. I love the crowds for this reason: instead of festering in some whitewashed gallery art is out in the public space and people are getting out there and enjoying it. The only drawback of so many people being there at once is the effect on the relationship between the sculptures, the space they’re placed in and the viewer – where I feel sculpture’s power really lies. Finding a quiet time for a viewing has its benefits.

Still, there’s something I love about going with the rest of the world too. It raises a question for me: What is it with art and the public? Why do I have this perception of most people scorning art and yet when something like this is put on it seems half the city – young, old, families and singles – turns up? Is it just that people ‘just like to go to things’, as someone put it to me this week? That is, do they not really care about the art at all, but just go along to whatever’s ‘happening’ this weekend for something to do?

No doubt there are some. But I love the sort of thing I saw today. When a big name gets a show, like a Picasso or Rothko retrospective, I have a tendency, justified or not, to think a lot of people might be drawn just by the name, especially in Australia where the big names are displayed so rarely. But there are no big names in Bondi, yet people are really interested in the works. They take photographs, they laugh, they pick their favourites. They aren’t generally interested in the way we’re told interest in art is supposed to manifest itself: dispassionately deconstructing everything to find the deeper ‘meaning’ in the work. Sadly there is still a strong sense for people that that’s exactly the way art has to be appreciated and the completely obtuse and indecipherable works that follow this artistic philosophy themselves only serve to continue enforcing this sense by alienating the very people they’re supposed to be communicating with. The great legacy of modern art has been to drive a wedge in people’s thinking between their life and visual creativity. But after people have stood mutely and impassively in front of them for a few moments (myself included) they move on to the stuff that’s actually cool and connects with them and their experience in some way, and often quite simply. It’s obvious in the comparison between works which always have a crowd of snap happy and grinning people around them (again myself included) and those which are left sadly alone. The works people love explore and re-imagine the beauty of this world or the human experience of living itself. The works I’ve snapped here were some of my favourites which I felt did just that.

The incessantly elitist and deconstructing nature of so much modern and post modern art (and talk about it) in the west has cultural and philosophical roots reaching back a couple of centuries , but the creative impulse has spanned human existence across cultures and centuries and has elsewhere always been much more closely tied to the lived experience of a culture’s people and their relationship with the wider world around them. I’ve said this before here.  ‘Art’ wasn’t the intellectual domain of a specific subculture who were in the ‘know’. You didn’t need an ‘art appreciation course’ (spare me) to engage with it. It reflected and still reflects life. In future posts I’d like to explore further how contemporary art is trying to reflect and speak to how we in the west tend to view the world and our lives, for I think there’s much to be said. But I wouldn’t hold your breath if I was you.

For now though, let me say that I think there is a real desire in people’s hearts for beauty and truth in the world, and for people to engage with and express it through acts of creativity. And there is a joy when it’s done.

What do you think? Do people love good art or am I mistaken? Do you enjoy art, and if so, what do you love about it? 


98 thoughts on “sculpture by the sea

  1. It’s absolutly fantastic . I have always admired the art and the artist , or the creator of that subject, happy to see and to admire the ability and the capacity of what a pair of hands and a good brian can do.CONGRATULATION ,and keep on producing that great thing wich is ART .*******Cheers. Vincent/ D.

  2. I love so many types of art.. Anything from street graffiti, paintings, ceramics, photographic art, just and endless list of things to beautify my mind.
    Much enjoyed this post!!

  3. I’m a die-hard SXS fan and have been a sponsor in the past. Not only for the sculpture, but like you too it’s the interaction with the people there and the variety of people that attend for a variety of reasons. Hopefully those children who play each year become adults who contribute and appreciate art later. Cheers.

    • Good to hear you’re also a fan. It was so heart warming this year to see so many kids really enjoying some of the works and having a ball. Art is for everyone

  4. I wonder if people turn up for events like this because they do appreciate art, but somehow find it inaccessible in everyday life. When there is an event like this, it (this idea of art) becomes accessible. Great post!

    • Hi Helen. Sculpture is my favourite too. Thanks for the link – I’ve been a Gormley fan for a long time and would love to see the Angel of the North for real some day

    • I think that’s very true. We’re taught implicitly if not explicitly that art is useless for achieving or accomplishing anything. But I think there’s more to life than that. Thank you so much for your kind words

  5. I think art is great, all forms of it. However, some turns me off while some excites me. Art amazes me because of the many forms which it takes. I love the ingenuity and creativity of the artist and the materials he uses, the degree of his artisanship, and the choice of subject matter.

    • There’s something so amazing about human ingenuity and creativity, isn’t there? I love that people can take things and use them to re-imagine the world and explore ideas about it, and with such diversity.

  6. I was there last year and saw lots of new ideas conveyed through sculptures and being a photographer bringing different kinds of subject to the scene is very exciting. Hope this year is no different and wont dissapoint.

  7. Love, love, love! there was one of these events at Currumbin Beach a few years ago; I still have some amazing photos so might have to take inspiration from you and let them see the light of day on my blog at some point 🙂

  8. Canberra has been doing some great roadside sculpture over the last few years, but not everyone appreciates it. During the recent local election, someone managed to briefly wrap black plastic around the base of one with its cost written in big white letters and declaring it a waste. I love this sculpture. I drive past it every work day. Unfortunately, because the art was government-sponsored it has become associated with one political party and consequently spat on at times by adherents to the other. It’s a shame.

    I haven’t made it to Scuplture by the Sea for a few years – appreciate your post and great to see it Freshly Pressed.

    • Thanks Cherrie. I’m glad to hear Canberra’s been getting some more public art and that it’s been lighting up your day. I’ll be in the capital soon so hopefully i get to see some of it. It’s a shame it was politicised but I guess that’s the way it goes at times

  9. It was so nice to read about this event! I live in Denmark, and for a few years, Sculpture by the Sea is also held here, in Aarhus. You might know, that the wife of the Danish Crown-prince, Mary, is from Australia. It was her initiation to organize the very same event on Aarhus beach, close to the royal family’s summer residence, every summer. Me and my family usually visit the Danish Sculpture by the Sea, whenever we have the possibility. It also attracts a lot of people here, my idea is that it is so popular, because the art is combined with an unusual, beautiful location. Plus, it is very family friendly, because no one is gonna look at you grumpily, if your children start to run around, screaming between the sculptures on the beach, while this behavior would not be accepted in a museum. By the way, I recognized one of the sculptures, of Hilde Danielsen, we saw the very same one here, in Denmark 🙂 Thank you for your post again!

    • I didn’t realise Sculpture by the Sea was also in Denmark or that Princess Mary was the one who initiated it there. That’s nice to know :). I enjoyed the one by Hilde Danielsen, it’s an interesting concept. Is the Danish half of the work still showing somewhere, do you know?

  10. Yes, Sculptures by the Sea is held every second year in Aarhus too. Next time will be in 2013.
    Some of the sculptures of the past exhibitions has been bought from the commune or private persons/companies still to enjoy in Aarhus.

    As written in an earlier post it is situated at the sea close to the royal summer residence, where it is also possible to enjoy sculptures all year long in the connecting park:

    • Some great works there – I loved the giant spheres made from logs. And also in a beautiful setting. I’m glad Denmark has this exhibition too. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I think that it takes a certain kind of mentality to really appreciate what is being placed in front of them and pull some sort of meaning out of it for themselves. Personally, I love art, and part of the fun is seeing other people appreciating the same thing that I am. Art is meant to being people together, and I think that this is just proof of that.

  12. I love your post. Thanks for sharing the art and opening my eyes to a new type of exhibit. I was recently at a resort in key Biscayne Florida where they had bronze sculptures all over the gardens. I took pictures of them and will be posting the pics on my blog tonight. Please come check them out, I think you’ll really like it.

  13. People love good art. But sometimes the “art community” can get a little annoying, and people generally DON’T like that. To me, I tend to dislike the connoisseur culture that grows up around that sort of thing; the culture interprets this as my disliking art.

    I don’t dislike art. I dislike THEM. Art is fine. 🙂

  14. I liked your choices!

    I just went to a great display last week. I was fascinated, stunned, by one artist’s depiction of most women as very manly. When I pointed it out to my guide, we had a great discussion about ART. And what art should mean versus what it means to the ‘artists’.

  15. I love open air art displays. However, I am intrigued by your idea that some art is made inaccessible by some artists. Perhaps some people get it while others do not and that might be OK. Not everyone loves horror films but there is a group who study the intricacies and deep layers of meaning imbued in those flicks.

    • Thanks for those thoughts – I agree that difference in taste and what people love is a good thing. What one person loves another is unmoved by. I was writing about the definition of what ‘art’ is by the ‘art world’ that many people outside that specific subculture feel alienated by and disconnected from… that is my perception at least.

    • Oh, Glennie, Thanks so much! Wasn’t expecting it! Truth be told I’m always jealous of the stuff you write, I love reading it – can’t wait for the next post. I hope you’re well 🙂

  16. This is especially timely given the recent post in the Guardian about how art critic Dave Dickey has left the art world in disgust. Hickey “is walking away from a world he says is calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors who have no respect for what they are doing.”

    I’ve always held that art belongs to the people and that the understanding of it is no longer the exclusive property of academics, critics and museum curators is a good thing.

    • Interesting article M.K. and sad. I think he’s right that artists need to lead the way forward. I agree that art belongs to everyone, and with Hickey that Graffiti can be great art.

  17. I love the third picture as it reminds me of sand dunes and waves all wrapped into one.
    I enjoy art very much, though I find that “good” art is relative to the eyes that see it and what they see in it, if that makes sense. 😀 For me personally, good art captures a glimpse of what has already been created in it true beauty. No artist can compete with the wonders of the Creator, but when they can grasp even a fragment of it for others to enjoy, even when one can’t enjoy the original in person, that is “good art”.
    Enjoyed your post! Thanks.

    • So true Sarah. I agree – a lot of good art for me reflects something of the beauty of God’s creation and so points to him. I look forward to reading more on some of your blogs, they look interesting

  18. I have nothing against intellectual and critical analysis of art. I like it. But it’s really refreshing when we enjoy it for the sake of it. The desire for beauty exists in every culture and people will continue to create beautiful works… with or without an art degree.

    Cheers! 🙂

  19. Pingback: sculpture by the sea « O-W-D's..interesting bits

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