Sculpture by the Sea founder David Handley is just about as Sydney as they come. He grew up in the city, works in Bondi and lives in Tamarama – a short stumble from the sand and stony cliffs that host his annual sculpture exhibition.

And yet he freely admits that “Perth has the best sunsets of any major city in the world”. Speaking to Broadsheet ahead of this year’s Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, his love for Western Australia is undeniable.

It was always his goal to bring the outdoor exhibition to Perth, he says. “I hoped to stage Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, way back in 1998, as part of that year’s Sydney Olympic Arts Festival. However, the then mayor was not welcoming.” After this setback, plans were put on pause until 2005, when the law firm that sponsors the Sydney event put forward the idea of staging one in Perth or Brisbane.

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For Handley, reflecting on the white sands and rocky breakwaters of Cottesloe Beach, the choice was obvious.

Coming up to the 19th annual Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, Handley says that “the people of Perth have made the exhibition their own”, with an estimated 200,000 visitors embracing the free outdoor art show each year. In fact, “more of the proportion of the population of Perth [visits the Cottesloe show] than the proportion of the Sydney population who visit the Bondi exhibition”. Not that it’s a competition.

This year the sculpture show will be held over three weekends in March, with large-scale sculptures by more than 70 artists from Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States, Taiwan, the Czech Republic and, of course, Australia.

Artists from every state and territory – including 32 from Western Australia – will see their works backlit by the halcyon haze of the Cottesloe sun. Handley is particularly proud of the platform Sculpture by the Sea provides these creatives. “It means they have a world-class sculpture exhibition in their home city or state, even though they live in the most remote city in the world,” he says.

Sharing some sneak peeks into this year’s show, Handley is particularly excited by the works of Sian Watson, a young Adelaide-based artist known for her work with concrete and steel, who is making her Cottesloe debut. He’s also proud of Sculpture by the Sea’s continuing relationships with Ukrainian artists, with works by Dimitry Grek and Egor Zigura set to be showcased. Two works that challenge sculptural norms – Whisper Tree, a sound work by Western Australian artist Anton Lord, and a light work by Japanese artist Takeshi Tanabe – are sure to make waves as well, he says.

Sculpture by the Sea will also celebrate its 25th anniversary in Bondi later in the year. “Sunrise in Bondi and sunset at Cottesloe,” Handley reflects. What could be better?

Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, runs from March 3–20.