x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Art could dot UAE shores

The founder of Australia's Sculpture by the Sea wants to bring the public art initiative to the Middle East.

Margarita Sampson’s artwork titled The Great Bondi Share-house, is one of the works on display at Sculpture by the Sea in Australia's New South Wales. Photo by Clyde Yee
Margarita Sampson’s artwork titled The Great Bondi Share-house, is one of the works on display at Sculpture by the Sea in Australia's New South Wales. Photo by Clyde Yee

Picture this scene: the sun-drenched coastline of Australia’s New South Wales, where migrating whales can be seen breaching far out to sea. As you take a walk along the cliff tops that link Bondi Beach to Tamarama Bay, your hour-long stroll is punctuated by the imposing sculptures of emerging and established artists.

The brains behind the picturesque public gallery is David Handley, the founder of Sculpture by the Sea.

“I have always loved large community arts events like Opera in the Park and Symphony Under the Stars,” he says. “To me, this sense of community is too rarely displayed or available in the modern world where there are few opportunities for seriously enjoyable cultural activities that are free and not fringe.”

Established in 1997 with just 63 artworks, the 2013 exhibition boasts 106 pieces of sculpture from 14 countries ranging from Europe to India and China. Scooping up this year’s Macquarie Group Prize and 60,000 Australian dollars (Dh2 million) for best sculpture was the respected Australian artist Stephen King.

“He’s been so close to winning the main prize on a number of occasions with some great works,” says Handley. “This year, the bridesmaid has finally become the bride.”

Off to the UAE?

The popularity of the event is clear from visitor numbers, which is estimated at 500,000 for this year. And given those numbers, Handley has plans to take the concept abroad.

“I would love to do it in one of the cities in the Middle East and I’ve been to Dubai and Abu Dhabi – it’s a dream,” he says.

“We could do it in the next 12 months if someone wanted it to happen, but I can’t say who we’re speaking to.

“I don’t want to give anything away yet, in terms of whether it’s an emirate or a country, but one party was very seriously discussing commissioning a feasibility study earlier this year and we’d love to do that,” adds Handley.

The Japanese artist Keizo Ushio looks forward to the expansion. “Happily, I have exhibited in all Sculpture by the Sea shows. Now I have a dream to see the event go to five continents, including Japan,” he says.

Sculpture by the Sea in Sydney runs until November 10. Visit www.sculpturebythesea.com

show specs

• The exhibition is free to the public

• All sculptures are for sale

• There’s also a small-scale indoor gallery

• All exhibition workers are volunteers

• Sculpture by the Sea receives about 700 submissions annually

• The judging panel comprises art executives, academics and curators

• Sculpture by the Sea offers sculpture resources and programmes to schools

rduane@thenational.ae

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