Welcome to the world’s largest annual free-to-the public outdoor sculpture exhibition

Sculptures by the Sea starts today for a 3 week period around the foreshores of Bondi Beach in Sydney.

From its humble beginnings in 1997 where it ran as a one day event, it now attracts 118 artists from around the world and over 500,000 visitors.

The brainchild of this amazing event is ex-corporate, Australian lawyer, David Handley.

His inspiration for this idea came about as follows (in his own words):

‘While running away from the corporate world and living in Prague in the early 1990’s I was taken to an outdoor sculpture park set amongst 13th century ruins near the town of Klatovy in northern Bohemia.

Playing amongst the ruins and sculptures one night with my Czech art school friends I had my first experience of the power, if not majesty, of sculpture. From here my thoughts for the ‘event’ I might one day put on began to turn to sculpture.’

This insight coupled with the unique sea-side vista of a range of Sydney beaches has proven an irresistible combination.

 But is Sculptures by the Sea an example of disruption?

I believe any disruptive idea or product or business should satisfy 3 criteria:

  1. A complete departure from what has occurred in the past
  2. It must change the rules of the game or start a new game e.g. Think Uber etc and
  3. The end result must be a significant improvement in the customer experience.

I think that Sculptures by the Sea passes these tests with flying colours.

There was nothing like it before and the combination of the work totally in sync with the environment created a new benchmark for future events.

And the artists, general public and the event organisers would all attest to the value of this endeavour.

One last lesson:

We tend to only see the success of any disruptive idea in retrospect.

In other-words when it is a success we all agree it was disruptive.

But this ignores the uncertainty, doubt and sheer hard work in making this event (or any disruption) a success.

It also started with a series of small, quick wins. 

As David Hadley recounts those years on the Sculptures by the Sea website:

‘In the exhibition’s first year, 1997 (and still far from resolved now) our biggest problem was financing the show. Run from my lounge room and staffed entirely by volunteers, none of whom knew each other before hand, the first exhibition started with a bank account of $100.

Produced on a shoe-string budget of $11,000, of which $8,500 went to the exhibiting artists in the form of the artist awards, the first exhibition was hustled together in 10 weeks.

That 25,000 people visited the 1997 exhibition, the quality of the show and the media interest gave the impetus required for the future development ofSculpture by the Sea. But given the fact our first major sponsor dollars did not show up for nearly 12 months it was a very hard time.’

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