Perth’s popular Sculpture by the Sea art event has secured another three years of State Government funding, announced a day after it was revealed billionaire Gina Rinehart was no longer supporting the event.
The event, now in its 11th year, is one of the biggest outdoor public art exhibitions in Western Australia, expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors in its two and a half-week run.
Event founder David Handley said the deal with Hancock Prospecting was only ever a one-year agreement, when the company stepped in to fill a funding shortfall last year.
He said the corporate sponsorship market was “quite tight”.
“If the sponsorship situation stayed the same for Sculpture by the Sea much longer, we would have real difficulties with presenting this exhibition here,” he said.
“When I say much longer, I don’t want to put a year on it, because we keep pulling rabbits out of the hat.
“It does make us very nervous as we come into the exhibition, both organisationally and for the individual artists, for there to be so much at risk.”
Planning minister John Day said the event was a key part of the State Government’s tourism strategy.
“We recognise … that it is of substantial importance artistically but also for wider economic activity in WA,” Planning Minister John Day said.
Mr Day announced an unspecified funding commitment to the event, along with a $10,000 shared scholarship for Western Australian artists Norton Flavel and Kim Perrier.
Flavel, who was responsible for the giant inflatable goon bag in last year’s exhibition, won the scholarship with his four-metre tall stainless steel ball and chain dubbed “Lucky Country”.
Perrier’s entry depicts a burnt-out stump with faces etched onto its inside.
The event has had a colourful history, including the 2012 theft of Chinese artist Chen Wen Ling’s Childhood Morning from Cottesloe Beach.
It was later recovered in the roof cavity of a house in the Perth suburb of Marmion, and two men were fined $15,000 for what was revealed to be a drunken prank.
This year’s event will feature 69 sculptures by Australian and international artists, and will run from today to March 23.