Swell's 15 years of artistic excellence

17 September 2017

In September 2003, the first Swell Sculpture Festival was held at Currumbin beach in Queensland.

The festival displayed just 23 sculptures on the golden sands of Currumbin Beach and attracted 6000 people.

Fast forward to 2017 and Swell has just celebrated its 15th birthday.

The annual festival has grown from a modest idea to a globally recognised event, attracting artists not just from all over Australia but also internationally.

This year, 55 artistic artworks, valued at over $1 million, drew an estimated crowd of over 275,000 from September 8 - 17.

The $3000 People's Choice award was won by Guy Cooper for Migaloo’s Song, while Safe by Clayton Thompson took out the $3000 Kids' Choice Award. Karl de Waal won the Smalls Gallery People's Choice award with The Dead Earth Series.

People's Choice winner: Guy Cooper for Migaloo’s Song. Credit: Narelle Johnson.


 Children voted for Clayton Thompson's Safe. Image: Narelle Johnson. 


Karl de Waal's The Dead Earth Series. Credit: Narelle Johnson.


This year Northern Rivers artists Alison Allcock, Gabriel Rosita, Jeanette Krohn and Lance Seadon were selected to exhibit their work. 

Alison Allcock described the experience of exhibiting at Swell as a "bit of a roller coaster, thrilling and nerve wracking all at once".

"It's a real honour to be included in the exhibition at all, I'm amazed at the professionalism and friendliness of the Swell team and I have learned a lot simply by observing how they operate," she said.

"Artists spend most of our time in studios and we often work alone so it is wonderful to meet others, exchange ideas and realise how much we have in common."




Surf Warriors by Alison Allcock of Brunswick Heads on Currumbin Beach for Swell 2017. Credit: Narelle Johnson

Satellite shows

The festival, which ran for 10 days, did not only include sculptures on the beach.

At Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre you could see The Scavenger exhibition by Christopher Trotter. He has been exhibiting at Swell since the festival's first year.

His sculptures are a creative recycling of materials highlighting the ability of creative solutions for future generations. 

The Scavenger was exhibited at the library until 1Sptember 17 as part of the Northerly SWELL, an initative designed to extend the reach of the festival.

Down the road a little way at the Dust Temple was the Swell Smalls Gallery. Small scale sculptures and artwork were on display, which intrigued and enchanted festival visitors. 

The Swell Festival also supports other forms of artistic talent.

On the Green, which was located next to the Rocks Resort, provided opportunities for visitors to buy street food while listening to one of the many free musical acts held during the event.

Visitors could also pull up a bean bag and listen to the conversations between ABC Gold Coast and artists, go for a guided twilight walk or take part in one of the many workshops that were held throughout the festival.

Visitors loved Swell

Heather Wyllie from Alstonville said that finding a car park was challenging but she loved the festival.

"My favorite was definitely the books, followed very closely by the crab on the big rock and the noodle one," she said.

Gold Coast resident Robyn Earley also liked the book sculpture by Monte Lupo. She described the festival as "fun, quirky and eclectic exhibition of wonderful expressions of artists' imaginations".

They were not the only ones that enjoyed the festival. Many people took to social media to share their enthusiasm and favorite moments.


Swell does not only hold its annual festival, it also undertakes curated programs through the year with installations throughout the Gold Coast and beyond.

The festival says that it aims to contribute to education, training and development, mentorship for emerging artists and involves tertiary students in real world learning experiences.

The 2018 Swell Festival will be held between 14-23 September.