SCULPTURE by the Sea has opened for its ninth year at Cottesloe Beach this week, and for the first time visitors will be asked to donate a gold coin to keep the free event viable.
In 2012, a record 250,000 people attended the event - up 35,000 on the previous year - and similar numbers are expected for this year’s exhibition, which features 71 sculptures.
Despite the event’s popularity, organisers have battled to maintain corporate sponsorship at previous levels.
Sculpture by the Sea founding director David Handley said the exhibition had been doing it tough.
“The exhibition in Cottesloe really kicked off alongside the mining boom and uncertainty in the economy over the last year or so has hurt us on the sponsorship side of things,” he said.
“It has been a tough year for us but with the support of private donors, particularly Andrew and Nicola Forrest who have contributed substantially, we’ve survived.”
Mr Handley, who has managed the event since its opening nine years ago, remains upbeat about its future.
“Thanks to substantial support from private donors we do have strong capital reserves, so the medium-term future of the event is assured,” he said.
Mr Handley said the event was off to a good start with sculpture sales of more than $300,000 before the event opened.
He is confident of attracting new major sponsors in the coming year, with some new partners coming on board this year as others have downgraded their support.
Alcoa of Australia and EventsCorp continue as the event’s major partners, but communications firm viv-idwireless has ended its sponsorship and National Australia Bank has downgraded its involvement to that of supporting partner.
New sponsors this year include engineering company Parsons Brinckerhoff and Kailis Australian Pearls.
Parsons Brinckerhoff has added the Cottesloe event to its sponsorship after supporting Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, for seven years.
Parsons Brinckerhoff regional director for Western Australia, Paul Reed, said the partnership with Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe reflected the company’s focus on creativity.
“Engineers, like artists, thrive on taking a vision and transforming it into a reality”, he said.
China Southern Airlines is supporting Sculpture by the Sea for the first time as two world-renowned Chinese artists, Sui Jianguo and Chen Wenling, display work at this year’s exhibition.
Prominent British artist Sir Anthony Caro is displaying a sculpture for the first time.
Mikaela Castledine was announced as the winner of the exhibition’s $10,000 Western Australian Sculptor Scholarship on Friday, which was donated by an anonymous donor and will help fund future artistic projects.