Mark your calendars, the 25th instalment of Sculpture by the Sea returns to the iconic Bondi to Tamarama Coastal Walk from October 20 to November 6, 2023.
No ordinary art show, this event transforms 2km of picturesque clifftop into an open-air gallery featuring over 100 works from both Australian and international artists.
With up to half a million people expected to explore this interactive and immersive exhibition within its three-week run, you’ll not want to miss it.
Here are 6 six compelling reasons that make the 2023 edition of Sculpture by the Sea an absolute must-visit.
1. It’s Free to the Public
Hailing the title of the world’s largest free outdoor sculpture showcase, Sculpture by the Sea is more than a mere cultural event—it’s a seismic shift in public art consumption.
In an age where exclusive exhibitions often carry hefty admission fees, this Bondi spectacle is an anomaly: no tickets, no entrance charges, just unrestricted access to a kaleidoscope of creative expression from Australian and international artists.
The implications of its free status extend far beyond budgetary considerations. The absence of financial barriers serves as an equalizer, opening the doors to a diverse audience that ranges from art critics to casual beachgoers.
No VIP areas, no fancy passes—just people experiencing art, together. In this way, the event becomes more than a showcase; it’s a community gathering. And it proves a simple but powerful point: unforgettable cultural experiences don’t have to cost a thing.
2. It’s the 25th Anniversary
A quarter of a century—this is no small feat for any event, let alone one that has grown from a volunteer-run, one-day show featuring 64 artists to the behemoth it is today.
Sculpture by the Sea started off in a living room in 1997 and attracted a respectable 25,000 visitors. It didn’t stop there. The event swiftly became part of the Sydney Olympics Arts Festival ‘A Sea Change’ in 1998, getting showcased in five Australian locations including Darwin, Noosa, Albany, the Tasman Peninsula, and of course, Bondi.
Today, it’s an annual magnet for up to half a million visitors, marking it as the informal commencement of Sydney’s summer. The 25th iteration of the event is even more special as it features works by artists like Paul Bacon, Stephen King, Michael Le Grand, John Petrie, James Rogers, and Margarita Sampson, who were there at the event’s inception.
With 25 years under its belt, Sculpture by the Sea has seen the event multiply and even cross coasts with its equally successful counterpart, Cottesloe by the Sea, in Western Australia.
3. The Artists
The roster of artists involved in Sculpture by the Sea for 2023 is nothing short of a who’s who in the art world, both nationally and internationally.
Over the years, the event has exhibited an impressive 2,691 sculptures by 1,129 artists from 51 countries. From Australia’s leading sculptors like May Barrie, Bert Flugelman, and Inge King, to international big hitters such as Sir Anthony Caro, Phillip King, and Sui Jian Guo—the list is monumental.
This year’s 25th anniversary will also serve as a homage to the artists who have been integral to the event since its early days. Names like Paul Bacon, Stephen King, Michael Le Grand, John Petrie, James Rogers, and Margarita Sampson will grace the exhibition, marking a full-circle moment for an event that has seen remarkable growth over the last quarter-century.
Earning their Double Decade Club badges are veterans Philip Spelman and Ron Gomboc, marking 20 years of contributing to this iconic event. Joining the Decade Club are Lucy Barker and Ayako Saito, each celebrating a ten-year artistic journey with the exhibition.
With a legacy that spans 25 years, Sculpture by the Sea not only showcases the best in contemporary art but also captures the evolution of sculpture as a medium, making each year an unmissable chapter in an ongoing story.
4. It’s Located on the Famous Costal Walk
The stage for Sculpture by the Sea is no less captivating than the artworks themselves. Hosted along the famed Bondi to Tamarama Coastal Walk, the exhibition invites attendees on an immersive journey that’s as visually rewarding as it is artistically enriching.
The walk starts at the bottom of Notts Avenue, near the iconic Bondi Icebergs pool. Covering just 1.2 km and taking a mere 25 minutes plus stops, it’s a short, medium-grade walk featuring steep stairs but packed with unforgettable sights.
Expect ocean views that stretch endlessly into the horizon, framed by towering sandstone cliffs and punctuated by the rhythmic crashing of waves. This route offers more than just a backdrop; it’s an integral part of the experience.
As you navigate the path, you’ll find yourself walking on rock overhangs that offer panoramic views of both North and South Bondi. And if you’re keen-eyed, an Aboriginal rock engraving of a shark or whale can be spotted next to the walk below Marks Park.
Throw in the famous golden sands of Bondi Beach and surfers catching waves at dawn and dusk, and you’ve got Aussie beach culture encapsulated. For art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Sculpture by the Sea marries aesthetic allure with natural beauty in a setting that’s quintessentially Australian.
5. It’s an Interactive Experience
This isn’t your typical ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ gallery setting. Sculpture by the Sea invites you to interact with the art. You can walk around, through, and even under many of the installations.
The outdoor venue allows the sculptures to engage with their environment, and likewise, allows you to engage with them. From pieces that react to the wind and tide, to installations that demand a 360-degree exploration, this event turns passive observation into active participation.
6. It’s the perfect excuse to visit Sydney
If you’re debating a trip to Sydney, let Sculpture by the Sea be the irresistible pull that gets you packing. The event has transcended its status as just an art exhibition; it’s now an unmissable experience stitched into the very fabric of Sydney’s cultural calendar.
This isn’t just a few hours of gallery-style wandering; it’s an entry ticket to a fuller Sydney experience.
When the sun sets and you’re ready to wind down, Sydney’s enticing nightlife beckons. Think hip rooftop bars, world-class restaurants, and a myriad of other after-dark attractions.
Wondering where to crash for the night? Whether you decide to stay in the city or opt for the laid-back vibes of the coast, convenient bus links ensure that you’re never too far from the Sculpture by the Sea action.
The Sculpture by the Sea event takes place from October 20 to November 6, 2023, along the Bondi to Tamarama Coastal Walk. Due to limited parking, public transport is highly recommended.