Organisers of Sydney’s famous Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Bondi are calling on the NSW premier to step in and help save the event as it battles with the local council about a new path to boost disabled access.
Founding director David Handley said the 279-metre long and 1.8-metre wide concrete track around Marks Park would interfere with the spring exhibition, which attracts nearly half a million visitors each year.
He claimed that, while a noble goal, the path would take out eight of the 10 prime spots that give the event the “wow” factor.
“The path totally puts a kibosh on the exhibition and rips the guts out of it because we won’t be able to put the footings into the ground,” Mr Handley told 2GB on Thursday.
“We are in a state of disbelief. It’s unbelievable.”
Artists spend up to $25,000 each to secure the best positions, and millions of dollars and many months has already been spent on the 2019 exhibition.
While this year’s event will still go ahead, Mr Handley said it will likely be the last on the coastal walk between Bondi and Tamarama if the path goes ahead.
“We really need people to make noise about this or it’s the end of Sculpture by the Sea,” he said.
“If the artists aren’t inspired by the location, and if we’re not to know where the next ambush is coming from, how can we stage this exhibition?”
A study by BIS Oxford Economics estimates visitors to the event contribute more than $11 million in direct spending to the local economy. Interstate and international visitors travelling specifically to visit the exhibition contribute $38.9 million to the NSW economy.
Mr Handley said more than 180 artists from 24 countries had written to council to oppose the path, describing it as an “international cultural disaster”.
He is setting up a petition but in the meantime urged supporters to write to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“She’s not to blame for this, but we’re hoping that the state government might look at this from their point of view. This is a site of state significance,” he said.
“This is not about us.”
Waverley Council member Sally Betts told The Daily Telegraph councillors had been “misled” after staff told them organisers were happy with the design of the footpath.