The structures we most associate with beaches might be temporary – deckchairs, umbrellas, sand castles – or seasonal (beach bars) but artists and events organisers are increasingly looking at beaches as canvasses where they can display their thought-provoking works of art (such as the Easter-Island-inspired statue above from Sculpture by the Sea 2011 by Michael).
Here are our favourite sculpture beaches around the world.
Another Place, Crosby Beach, Sefton, England
Crosby Beach is Another Place. This stretch of Merseyside coastline, north of Liverpool, is inhabited by 100 life-size figures dotted along 2 miles of the foreshore, reaching almost a mile out to sea.
Created by Antony Gormley, who also sculpted the Angel of the North in Gateshead and created the figures for Inside Australia at Lake Ballard, each cast-iron figure weighs more than 1,400 lbs. Exposed to the elements for about 10 years now, some are rusted, others covered in crustaceans. All of them stare out across the Irish Sea and as the tide sweeps out and rushes back in, they are revealed and then submerged again.
L’Estel Ferit, Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona, Spain
This sculpture might be better known as “the cubes” but its official name is rather more beautiful – L’Estel Ferit, The Wounded Shooting Star. It dates from the years leading up to the 1992 Olympic Games when Barcelona was renewed and transformed into a world city.
The sculptor, Rebecca Horn, took her inspiration from the bars and restaurants (xiringuitos) that dotted the seafront. Some say the inspiration for the four stacked boxes were the small apartments, quarts de pis, that were built at the end of the 19th century.
Whatever the inspiration, today, the 33-feet-high art work is a landmark in Barcelona’s old fishing district. Find it at Pg. Marítim de la Barceloneta, Platja de Sant Miquel. Buses 36, 45, 57, 59 or 157 will take you there.
Chain Link Sculpture, Stewart Island, New Zealand
Stewart Island/Rakiura is the smallest, and most southern, of New Zealand’s three main islands. Its Maori name Rakiura is often translated as Glowing Skies, a possible reference to the Aurora Australis, the southern lights.
The Chain was created by local artist Russell Beck, but to understand the meaning behind the sculpture you must first hear a famous Maori tale.
According to legend, the hero Maui and his brothers sailed in their boat (Te Waka a Maui: the South Island) and caught a giant fish (Te Ika a Maui: the North Island).
The original Maori name for Stewart Island is Te Punga o Te Waka “The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe”. This chain link sculpture marks the official entrance to Rakiura National Park at Lee Bay. There is a corresponding chain link on the bottom of the South Island at Stirling Point, Bluff.
Neptune, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
Mighty Neptune, sculpted by Paul DiPasquale, guards the entrance to Neptune Park (Oceanfront at 31st Street and Atlantic Avenue) and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. A huge structure, Neptune stands 34 feet high and weighs 12.5 tonnes. His head measures 6.5 feet, his shoulders a mighty span of 12 feet. With a trident in his hand, dolphins (17 and 15 feet), a Loggerhead Turtle (11 feet in diameter) and octupus (8 feet) at his feet, he gazes fondly towards the shore.
It’s a relatively newish statue, dedicated to the City of Virginia during the 2005 Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend. The Neptune Festival raised the money for the statue entirely from citizens of Virginia Beach.
Serpent d’Ocean, Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, Western France
Huang Yong Ping’s skeleton of a sea serpent snakes out of the water at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins. The 426-feet, aluminium sculpture looks like it was uncovered in an archaeological dig and was created for Estuaire 2012, a contemporary art biennial on the banks of the Loire River.
Artists take their inspiration from the Loire estuary, its land and history. The serpent appears and disappears with the tides and resembles, a little, the shape of the Saint-Nazaire bridge which spans the Loire, linking Saint-Nazaire with Saint-Brevin-les-Pins.
Find it at Le Nez-de-Chien, Mindin, Saint-Brévin-les-Pins.
Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney, Australia
There are three Sculpture by the Sea festivals – Sydney, Cottesloe Beach in Perth and Aarhus in Denmark. The Sydney public arts event was founded by David Handley in 1997. For a couple of weeks each year (October 24-November 10 in 2013) the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk is dotted with stunning pieces of art by Australian and international artists. Almost 500,000 people walk the 3-mile coastal path each year.
It’s one of the largest-selling exhibitions in the world; about a third of the art works are sold each year into private collections and for public exhibitions. The Balnaves Foundation funds the $70,000 prize and gifts the sculpture to the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney for the enjoyment of all. Find it: take a 380 bus from the city, get off on Campbell Parade and start at the end of Notts Avenue.
Sculpture by the Sea, Aarhus, Denmark
The only Sculpture By The Sea outside Australia, Aarhus in Denmark hosted it for the third time last month. Half a million people visited the exhibition site (there were 64 artists from 22 countries showing their work) on the Jutland coast such as Alejandro Propato’s Permanent Sunrise and Once by James Dive/The Glue Society (an entire amusement park crushed into a 13-feet cube). Some artists incorporated the Marselisborg forest into their exhibits.
The patrons of the event are Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary who visited the Bondi Beach show in 2000 and brought it to Aarhus in 2009. And the sculpture that was gifted to Aarhus this year was Beach House by Toni Schaller-Neustadt,above. Follow the mile-long stretch of coast from Tangkrogen to Ballehage.
Sculpture on the Beach, Dubai, UAE
Dubai has been staging exciting cultural festivals in recent years with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Dubai International Film Festival to name just two. This year Art Dubai introduced a new programme – Sculpture on the Beach. This curated exhibition of works by 11 artists including Chris Burden, Amahiguéré Dolo and Mounir Fatmi took place on the Mina A’Salam beach.
One of the most arresting sculptures was I like America by Mounir Fatmi, which used painted equestrian jumping poles and formed them into an impenetrable obstacle.
Monumento al Ahogado, Punta del Este, Uruguay
This sculpture of five human fingers emerging from sand (or are they sinking into the sand?) is a landmark on Parada 1 at Brava Beach in Punta del Este, a popular tourist town in Uruguay.
Created in 1982 by Mario Irarrázabal, a Chilean artist, as part of the International Meeting of Modern Sculpture in the Open Air in Punta del Este, it stands as a warning to swimmers to beware the rough waters of La Barra.
Immortalised in photographs and on postcards, Irarrázabal made replicas for Madrid in 1987, in the Atacama Desert in Chile in 1992 and in Venice in 1995.
Inukshuk, English Bay, Vancouver, Canada
An inukshuk is a stone landmark used by the peoples of the Arctic Region. The Inuit used them as markers – for camps, fishing spots, hunting grounds, sacred places and travel routes. Most recently, the City of Vancouver used an stylised inukshuk (known as Ilanaaq) in its logo for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
A huge inukshuk stands at English Bay in Vancouver. Created by Alvin Kanak from the Nunavut Territory, it was commissioned by the Government of the Northwest Territories for its pavilion at Expo 86. It was then given to the City of Vancouver, an enduring symbol of Northern friendship.