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Plans for autumn Sculpture by the Sea abandoned

The bespoke Sculpture Rocks has been pushed back to mid-year.

“You think you come up with a small exhibition idea that might work but it can’t be small enough to go ahead,” founder and director David Handley said. “We accept that it’s a sign of the times.”

The dilemma is one faced by arts companies across the country as they seek to reinvent cultural events and host them in a COVID-19 safe manner.

The mini-exhibition was to feature 17 works by 13 Japanese artists including Keizo Ushio, Takeshi Tanabe, Mitsuo Takeuchi, Ayako Saito and Akira Kamada. The plan was to hold an indoor exhibition of small contemporary sculpture concurrently at Campbell’s Stores.

Mr Handley said he thought the organisation had created a COVID-19 safe exhibition. Most works are made of stone and to be displayed on a relatively open stretch of cove between the Overseas Passenger Terminal and Park Hyatt Hotel.

Crowds were originally limited to 600 people an hour but were revised down to a maximum of 180 an hour after the recent holiday pandemic outbreaks, a restriction Handley said was, in the end, too difficult to police.


“You’ve got to be an eternal optimist in this game and that would go for anyone running an arts organisation or board or any senior arts staff anywhere in the world, we are not unique in that sense,” Handley said.

“I do not think anyone generally did think these circumstances would go on for so long, we thought it would be back to normal by now. In July 2019 we were 14 full-time staff and six permanent part-time staff, we are now six permanent staff and eight permanent part-timers.

“We need to keep reinventing things and we’ve sent artists to regional NSW to bushfire-affected communities.”

Waverley mayor Paula Masselos said the council continued to be supportive of Sculpture by the Sea as a major arts event on the national and international calendar.

“We very much look forward to the next Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in whatever form it needs to take to ensure safe attendance,” she said.

“Council will continue to work with the organisers on options for a COVID-safe exhibition towards the end of this year to ensure our community’s safety during these uncertain times.

“The evolving health situation in Greater Sydney and interstate, and commensurate public health orders, will dictate how public events can be held, but we very much look forward to the next Sculpture by the Sea event.”

Sculpture by the Sea has been offered recovery assistance by the state government’s art agency, Create NSW. As part of its application, it has sought to reimburse participating sculptors $1500 each for works that were commissioned for the Bondi to Tamarama walk but had yet to be shown.

A fund to provide financial support for the organisation and assist with extra freight costs incurred by interstate and international artists due to Sculptures having to go from port to storage and not directly to Bondi has raised $170,000.

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