Eye candy for sale as sculptors try to break even
Linda Morris | October 21, 2018 | The Sydney Morning Herald
Victorian artist James Parrett has scooped the $70,000 first prize in this year’s Sculpture by the Sea.
Parrett, the brother of novelist Favel Parrett, won the prestigious Aqualand Sculpture Award for his work M-fortysix.
“Receiving an award like this is something that I have allowed myself to daydream about from time to time but never expected to happen,” said Parrett, who confessed to having a “surreal and giddy” sleepless night after learning of his success.
The prize is an aquisitive award, which means Parrett’s work will join recipients from the past two years on permanent display at Mosman’s Headland Park.
It also means that Parrett no longer has to worry about selling the work to cover his costs, unlike so many of the other entrants in this year’s show.
These include Deborah Halpern, whose jaunty work, The Face, sits in Marks Park, Bondi. For Halpern there’s the engineering to consider; the materials, fabrication of the armature and the internal turning mechanism, the formation of its shape, the fibreglass and the expert cutting of tiles covering lips, nose and eyes.
Then there’s the freight from Melbourne to Sydney and, finally, installation with cranes and cherry pickers. The costs of showing up in Sculpture by the Sea are considerable.
“Tens of thousands of dollars,” Halpern calculates.
Among the thousands of daytrippers who will visit the free public outdoor exhibition participating artists hope for that special someone to show up, love their work and buy it for private or public display.
“Of course, I would love someone to love this work and to buy it,” Halpern says. “But the risk as a self-employed artist – and I’ve been doing this for over 40 years – is that you have to be prepared to wait for that special person to show up and to commit themself to the sculpture.
“If I was hanging out for someone to buy the work to recoup the costs I would’ve invented another job decades ago.”
Most of the 107 works lining the two-kilometre walk from Bondi to Tamarama Beach are for sale. For $13,500 one can keep Danni Bryant’s spiky Friendly Terror, or $45,000 buys Akiho Tata’s Pink Eggplant – Share.
Parvaneh Roudgar’s luminous Migration, honouring the lightness and dynamism of migratory birds, is for sale for $80,000.
Mu Boyan’s fleshy, obese man and Wei Wang’s Walking have no price tags: price is on application. The same for Halpern’s The Face.
Founding director of the sculpture walk, David Handley, said the vast majority of exhibiting artists rely on sales to recoup the cost of exhibiting at Sculpture by the Sea.
“Costs really vary but it averages at about $10,000 but easily stretches up to $30,000-$40,000 for different artists. It’s the costs of materials, fabrication and freight,” Mr Handley said.
“A few years ago we were able to extend the support for artists by covering their installation costs, all the heavy equipment costs, the cranes, et cetera.
“That was made partly possible by the Catalyst [Australian Arts and Culture] Fund – those funds are now administered by the Australia Council – and partly because we had been able to build up sources for support.
“That was a major step forward. It felt very wrong saying to artists helping to put on one of Sydney biggest free public events, “And by the way here’s a $1200 cost for cranes and forklift”. What we are hoping now [is that] we can get to the point where we can cover the artist’s reasonable freight costs.”
If Halpern’s The Face doesn’t sell by the end of Sculpture by the Sea, the artist will incur costs to de-install, and freight it back to Melbourne for storage.
“Until she goes on another journey and it starts again,” Halpern adds.
© 2019 The Sydney Morning Herald | This article first appeared on the SMH on 26 October 2018.