China's sculpture by the sea

David Handley, founding director of the world famous sculptural walk Sculpture by the Sea, has been asked many times to create a Sculpture by the Wall exhibition in China.

Here and elsewhere, Handley says people do not always appreciate the costs of staging exhibitions on such a monumental scale.

So as Handley muses on the logistics and funding for an international iteration of the two-kilometre Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk, Sculpture by the Sea, China has decided to come to Bondi with the debut installation of eight works by distinguished alumni and teachers from Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA).

Mu Boyan's fleshy man made from stainless steel.

Mu Boyan’s fleshy man made from stainless steel.

As far as Handley is aware, apart from the exhibitions at White Rabbit Gallery, the CAFA showcase will be the first major group exhibition in Australia of large contemporary sculptures by Chinese sculptors and the first to take place outdoors.

''This is a great opportunity for visitors to our exhibition to compare the works of Chinese sculptors with other artists from across Australia and around the world.

''Like the other sculptures in our exhibitions, the CAFA artists’ works are from a very broad range of contemporary sculpture from wonderful figurative works to pop.''

Among the more than 100 installations – taking prime position overlooking Marks Park and the Pacific Ocean – will be Horizon, a fleshy obese figure created by acclaimed sculptor Mu Boyan, renowned for his iconic works which depict an overweight man in strange scenarios. While being overweight is a sign of unhealthy eating and excess, in the East it symbolises health and prosperity.

The Sydney public will be invited to contemplate the sea with the stainless steel construct.

The partnership will also extend to the 3rd annual Sydney Sculpture Conference, Sculpture: A Universal Language, on November 5 at the Sydney Opera House, where Professor Lv Pinchang and CAFA’s most renowned alumni artist Professor Sui Jianguo will speak alongside other artists.

For Professor Lv Pinchang, artist and dean of sculpture at CAFA who is showing his own work Space Plan, the showcase is a good opportunity to show off the institution's talent to a global sculpture audience that watches Sculpture by the Sea online, even if they cannot attend in person.

The reputation of the outdoor festival has grown since Prof Jianguo exhibited Time of Jurassic at Bondi in 2004 and Cottesloe in 2005.

Cao Hui's A bicycle covered by snow.

Cao Hui’s A bicycle covered by snow.

“The beautiful exhibition locations, very large number of visitors and the quality of sculptors from Australia and around the world makes Sculpture by the Sea very interesting for Chinese sculptors,'' Prof Pinchang said.

''I would not have believed the stories of the number of visitors had my colleagues experienced the number of visitors themselves in earlier years.

''Some artists have also had their sculptures purchased by Australian collectors, especially Chen Wenling and Wang Shugang. Without sales, it is very difficult for international artists to participate.''

Wei Wang's larger than life  Walking

Wei Wang’s larger than life Walking

Sales are the primary way participating artists recover their costs.

Handley said he was still considering the idea of working to create a major exhibition in China. ''We shall see. It’s not that easy for, apart from finding the funds, unless you have an exceptional site from both the artists and public’s point of view, the expenditure won’t be justified.

''This is why the international artists want to exhibit at Bondi and why I like to joke that it’s as if God and the Mayor of Waverley got together to create the perfect site for a major temporary outdoor exhibition – and more seriously if someone in government would finally understand the global potential of the Bondi and Cottesloe exhibitions to provide even half decent funding Australia would reap exponential cultural, tourism and reputation benefits from Sculpture by the Sea.''

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