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$50k artist prize for Cott sculpture
An exhibit at last year's Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

A new $50,000 artist prize offered by Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting leads a sponsorship boost to shore up the future of Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe.

The $50,000 Roy Hill Sculpture Prize, an acquisitive award for sculptures able to last outdoors for a decade, will be one of Australia's most lucrative art prizes.

Mrs Rinehart is one of several new supporters who responded to Sculpture by the Sea director David Handley's recent appeal to keep the exhibition in WA beyond its 10th outing next month.

"Prior to these sponsors coming on board, we were really headed for a major loss," Mr Handley said.

The annual exhibition costs more than $1 million to stage and has run at a $200,000 loss for the past two years.

Mr Handley said there had been a serious risk Sculpture by the Sea might not have gone ahead in 2015 had the extra support not come.

Mrs Rinehart, as the new principal sponsor, joins founding major partner Alcoa, Eventscorp and mining magnate Andrew Forrest's Minderoo Foundation as key supporters keeping the event afloat.

"Sculpture by the Sea's sponsors collectively cover half the total costs of putting the exhibition on," Mr Handley said.

"The rest comes from Government grants and funding, private donors, commission from sales of sculptures and public donations," he said. "In 2013, we received $36,000 from public donations via the Gold Coin Donation Buckets on site.

The Roy Hill Sculpture Prize judging panel includes National Art School head of art history and theory Michael Hill, WA sculptor Lou Lambert and Trowbridge Gallery director Julienne Penny.

In its landmark year, Cottesloe will host works by 74 artists, including 25 from overseas, from March 7 to 24.