When Neil Williams studied art and sculpture in the UK in his youth, he would never have dreamed that he would be curator of the Montalto Sculpture Exhibition on the other side of the world.
However life took a wonderful turn for the artistic soul who met his wife Heidi in the UK and went on a travelling adventure together in 1997. The couple decided to move to the peninsula to be closer to the family business, Montalto, and the rest is history.
Now, a father of three, Neil spends his days between Montalto and his Cook Street Collective Art Gallery in Flinders, and is very proud of the way the sculpture exhibition has evolved.
“The Montalto Sculpture Prize is an acquisitive award open to all artists working in any medium that began in 2003, after about 12 months planning,” said Neil. “John Mitchell, Montalto owner, had purchased a sculpture from Jason Waterhouse and loved the material and how it reflected the building. I had studied sculpture in the UK and knew how much it could add to the landscape and from that the idea evolved. At the time McClelland Gallery was just starting and we thought we would try our hand at having a sculpture exhibition.”
That was 13 years ago and, with the recent announcement of the 14th Montalto Sculpture Prize winner, it has become one of the most renowned art events on the peninsula, with local and international artists submitting their works.
“Being an outdoor sculpture exhibition, it is a very interesting week when the installations are being set up. We have to hire forklifts and equipment to get some of the sculptures into place on the property,” said Neil. “We have had artists who have driven down from Queensland, dropped their sculpture off, and driven back. We had one artist this year who took a week to erect his installation and he camped on the back hill while he did it. It’s a very interesting time.”
While the exhibition started with prize money of $8000 and 50 entries in the first year, these days Neil and the team are inundated with entries from across the country and overseas. This year the prize money is $30,000 and the exhibition has been extended to run eight months from February to October.
“This gives artists the opportunity to show their work for a longer period of time and hopefully sell some pieces. We have sculptures that range between $8000 to $40,000. We love being able to introduce restaurant and piazza visitors to the wonderful art works we have here, with the whole philosophy of a wonderful food, wine and artistic experience,” said Neil, explaining that everyone is an art critic. “It’s great seeing people check out the sculptures and often having strong opinions on their favorites and which should have won. This is another reason we have the people’s choice as well. The winning piece is often controversial and we often have people asking why a certain piece won but then come back later and can see the beauty in it.”
This year, the Montalto Sculpture Prize went to James Parrett for M-Twentyfour (Biggest). Like all James’s work, it is inspired by the aesthetic potential of the circular form and what can be achieved through the dissection and reconfiguration of radial arcs.
M-Twentyfour is displayed proudly on the lawn of Montalto where diners and wine lovers can sit and enjoy its stainless steel splendor.
With sculptures dotted across the Montalto acres, the back hill stands out with its wonderful piece by Hastings artist, Ben Carroll, called Mare’s Tails, inspired by the wispy clouds that appear in the sky when a change of weather is on its way.
“The Montalto Sculpture Prize has been designed to encourage artistic pursuit, and to allow guests to enjoy the natural beauty of the property in association with the wonderful creativity of the sculptures,” said Neil. “Keep an eye out on the Montalto website for 2017 applications. It is sure to be a good one.”
Montalto is at 33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill.
Phone 5989 8412 | www.montalto.com.au