20 October 2023

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi officially opens 25th exhibition with John Petrie announced as recipient of prestigious $100,000 Aqualand Sculpture Awards for ‘23.5°’

Aqualand_John Petrie, ‘23.5°’, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2023, Photo: Charlotte Curd
Image: John Petrie, ‘23.5°’, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2023, Photo: Charlotte Curd

The 25th Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi is officially underway with Chris Minns, Premier of NSW, opening the exhibition on Friday, 20th October. The world’s largest free-to-the-public outdoor sculpture exhibition features over 100 sculptures and artworks along the spectacular 2km coastal walk with 450,000 people expected to visit over the 18 days of the exhibition.

Clovelly local John Petrie was announced as the recipient of the $100,000 Aqualand Sculpture Award for his gravity defying basalt artwork 23.5°. The Aqualand Sculpture Award is an acquisitive award recognised as one of the most sought-after art awards in the world. To mark the significant 25th exhibition milestone, long standing Principal Sponsor Aqualand increased the award’s value from $70,000 to $100,000 for 2023, making the award the second most generous sculpture award in the world.

23.5° will be gifted by Aqualand for permanent public placement in Sydney.

John Petrie is a Sydney-based sculptor working primarily in stone, influenced by the Australian landscape. He is one of six artists in this year’s exhibition that exhibited in the first Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi in 1997, and a member of the Decade Club, having exhibited at Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 11 times.

23.5° is a 2.6m high work made from basalt and inspired by the Earth’s axis. The sculpture brings together the rugged boulder terrain of The Great Dividing Range and the refined aesthetic Petrie was exposed to when living in Japan.

Aqualand_Image: John Petrie, ‘23.5°’, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2023, Photo: Charlotte Curd
Image: John Petrie, ‘23.5°’, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2023, Photo: Charlotte Curd

John Petrie said:

“This award is a great moment. It also means that these monumental boulders from Australia, the oldest continent on Earth, have found their place in sculpture. Art is a serious business and speaks of optimism and possibility. It shows confidence in the world. I am very humbled by this award and thank Aqualand and Sculpture by the Sea for making it all possible.”


It was announced today that the work of 2022 Aqualand Sculpture Award recipient Tony Davis, ‘Folly Interstice’, will be gifted by Aqualand to the Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail as part of the new Sculpture Forest, which will launch in April 2024 in partnership with the Forestry Corporation NSW. The Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail is a major permanent outdoor public collection stretching over 150km in the Snowy Valleys region of southern NSW. The project was conceived by the Sculpture by the Sea organisation in partnership with the local communities to aid in the socio-economic recovery of the Snowy Valleys after the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. *

Aqualand is also thrilled to announce that it has extended its partnership with Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi as Principal Sponsor for another three years from 2024, continuing its commitment to supporting and celebrating Australian arts and fostering exceptional artistic talent.


Aqualand Group Managing Director, Jin Lin, said:

“We applaud David Handley and his entire team on the 25th Bondi exhibition and are delighted to formalise our ongoing partnership until 2026, which will be our 11th year of support.“It gives us great pride to foster exceptional creative endeavor with the Aqualand Sculpture Award each year and we congratulate John Petrie on his award-winning sculpture.”


Premier of NSW Chris Minns said:

“My Government is proud to support the 25th exhibition of the iconic Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi.  Up to 500,000 visitors from across Sydney and the world are drawn to the arts festival each year, providing a boost to the NSW economy.

I encourage everyone who appreciates art and our beautiful coast to explore Sculpture by the Sea this year.”


Founding CEO & Artistic Director, David Handley, said:

“Thank you to the people of Sydney for visiting Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi since 1997. It has been wonderful to work with 1,233 artists from 51 countries around the world to create the 25 exhibitions that have been viewed by tens of millions of visitors since it began as a one day exhibition. Huge congratulations to John Petrie for this career defining artwork, which has received the $100,000 Aqualand Sculpture Award. It has been great having John on the journey with us since he exhibited in the first exhibition. We could not be happier for him. We now invite Sydney to celebrate this year’s exhibition.”

Japanese artist Masayuki Sugiyama was awarded the Neil Balnaves AO 25th Anniversary Prize of $25,000 for his stainless steel work ‘Moving Stillness (2020/2023)’ and Greek artist Leda Alexopoulou was awarded the Waverley Council Mayor’s Award of $5,000 for her bronze sculpture ‘Keep Walking’.

Highlights of the 2023 exhibition include this year’s three $30,000 Helen Lempriere Scholarship recipients: Greg Johns (SA), Lucy Barker (NSW) and Siahne Rogers (WA).

Petrie is one of six artists in this year’s exhibition that also exhibited in the first Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi in 1997, including Paul Bacon, Stephen King, Michael Le Grand, James Rogers and Margarita Sampson. They are joined by artists from 21 countries including every Australian State and Territory including renowned Australian sculptors Philip Spelman and R.M. Ron Gomboc who join the Double Decade Club as they celebrate their 20th time in the exhibition and Lucy Barker and Ayako Saito who join the Decade Club.

Acclaimed Chinese artists Chen Wenling and Shen Lieyi exhibit alongside a dozen leading artists from Japan and, in continuing the support for Ukrainian artists, Nazar Bilyk exhibits at Bondi for the first time.

Aqualand_Chen Wenling, 'The Top Of The Balance', Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2023, Photo: Charlotte Curd
Image: Chen Wenling, ‘The Top Of The Balance’, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2023, Photo: Charlotte Curd

Snapchat and Melbourne artist Mond Qu bring an immersive new ‘ARt’ collaboration with ‘Chasing the Sun’, which uses Snap’s leading augmented reality (AR) technology to create a ‘secret’ sculpture that visitors can unlock at Tamarama beach, for a fully immersive AR experience that tracks the arc of the sun as it moves through the sky. Those who can’t make it to Sydney can also experience the magic of Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi and ‘Chasing the Sun’, through a global Snapchat Augmented Reality (AR) lens, which can used by anyone around the world.

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi is supported by Principal Sponsor Aqualand, the Federal Government’s Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund, Create NSW and donations from the people of Sydney.

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi runs until Monday 6 November.


*The Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail has been co-funded by the Australian and NSW governments under the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund.