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In British Columbia they have had an annual sand castle competition for many years. It used to be held on the beach at White Rock, later moving to Harrison Hot Springs. But a couple of years ago it moved again, this time to Parksville on Vancouver Island. Contestants from all over the world attend, building sand sculptures which last for a few weeks before the weather takes them down.
But Sculpture by the Sea in Cottesloe, Western Australia is another thing again. Not ephemeral sculptures made of sand, most of the sculptures here are permanent, though not in their permanent location. These works of art are made of wood, stone, steel and other durable materials. They are scattered along Cottesloe Beach, some on the sand, some on the grassy areas, and some in the gardens.
The event started in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, in 1997, the brainchild of a fellow named David Handley. The following year it expanded to five locations to help promote the Olympic Games in Sydney. They included Darwin, Noosa, Albany and the Tasman Peninsula as well as Bondi. But the additional showings were one-offs. it remained a Sydney event until 2005 when the event was launched in Cottesloe, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia. It has been an annual event there ever since.
This year’s exhibition runs from March 4-20th. My wife and I checked it out Tuesday and had a great afternoon. Getting there is pretty easy. The town is very close to Fremantle and easily accessible by car. The beach is along Marine Parade. It is a short fifteen minute walk from the Cottesloe train station (1.1 kilometres) or a ten minute bus ride if you prefer.
We drove in and found lots of street parking on Marine Parade, though it might be rather busy on the weekends. We parked just south of the beach and walked in, taking a path that took us past a couple of sculptures along the street and then down to a Cottesloe landmark, the Sun Dial. This isn’t part of the exhibit but is worth checking out any time. It keeps accurate time any time of the year. The instructions on how to read the sun dial are a bit cumbersome but easy to understand.
From the sun dial we walked up past the Surf Rescue building and came across several sculptures along the way. We decided to walk out on the breakwater, which also had a number of pieces of art on it, for an overview of the whole beach, then slowly made our way along the beach checking out the works. This year had works by 77 artists from nineteen different countries including Canada and the United States. The major sponsor is Rio Tinto Mines.
Many of these pieces must have been moved in by truck as they are huge. Others look like they might have been built in place just for the exhibit. They varied greatly in theme and content. Many were clearly abstract. Interesting shapes with no other significance than their beauty. Others were geometric patterns. Still others had themes. There were several with an environmental theme. And many were representational, often quite whimsical.
A few of the pieces had motion as part of the display. I took a video of one which was a circle of colourful poles with streamers running between them. A class of school children were exploring it at the time. The piece is called Kakashi by Lithuanian Ameican artist Zilvinas Kempinas.
Another was simply called “Eye” and consisted of an LED screen embedded in the dirt and surrounded by some foliage. But if you looked closely, well, darn if it wasn’t an eye! And it was looking around! Kind of creepy actually. It’s by Danish artist Anne-Marie Pedersen.
We ventured further up the beach and found more interesting pieces. One was called Book Cave and consisted of a large number of hard cover books glued together to form a cave. Another was a simple but large geometric figure of wood.
As you can see from the pictures, there were a lot of people on the beach not paying much attention to the artwork, just soaking up the sun, swimming and having a good time. The weather was warm, and bringing along your swimsuit and a towel is good idea. Make a day of it.
Wandering up behind the beach house, we came across a stainless steel sculpture of a chubby flying boy. We could see our reflection in it quite clearly.
And still further along we came across the largest of the sculptures called Re: Generation. It consisted of a curved bald pate on the ground, a multi-sided face that appeared half buried and a very large fully emerged multi-sided face. They were all in white porcelain or something that looked like white porcelain.
We came eventually to the Search and Rescue building which had a room full of smaller sculptures on display. Many were miniatures of ones we saw on the beach and all were for sale. Prices ranged from around $900 to thousands of dollars. My wife saw one selling for $46,000.
We also saw a monitor showing a video of a woman in a mermaid outfit suspended in the air on wires. Nearby was a large framed photograph of the mermaid without the wires. I asked about it and we found out the artist was going to be doing his “performance art” at 4 PM by the beach house, so we headed back to take it in. The artist is Chinese photographer Li Wei.
A model in flowing white robes was strapped to a safety harness and then she lay down on a surfboard hooked by cables to a crane. Another crane had a platform where photographer Li Wei would stand. After a half hour or so of set-up, she and he were hoisted into the air for the photo shoot. She went up and down several times, changing poses each time. I suspect the photographer will air brush out the wires and cables for his finished pictures.
We then went to the beach house which houses a large restaurant called Indiana and had a tasty meal. The restaurant has large windows and a beautiful overview of the beach.
All in all, it was a terrific afternoon. It’s highly recommended. And it’s free!
Additonal Links of Interest
- Photo gallery: More photos from Sculpture by the Sea
- Photo Gallery from the Official Website – includes additional pictures from previous years
- Sculpture By the Sea Official Website
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