October 29, 2009 / 10:19 AM / 10 years ago

91-year-old rocks Australia's biggest outdoor art show

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - A 91-year-old woman won the top prize at Australia’s main open-air art exhibition at Sydney’s Bondi Beach on Thursday for a granite carving she completed 13 years ago.

May Barrie’s sculpture beat 113 other artworks at the Sculpture By The Sea festival, Australia’s largest annual outdoor public display of art which is expected to draw half a million visitors over the next fortnight.

Barrie has been sculpting for more than 60 years and completed Time and Tide Granite Monolith II in 1996. Exhibition organizers described the huge sculpture, which has wave-like indents, as peaceful, subtle and sophisticated.

“I know it’s a good work and now I’m glad that other people agree. I’m surprised and pleased to have been given this award. I hope I’m not just dreaming this,” Barrie said.

Sculpture By The Sea, in its thirteenth year, allows people to view artworks as they walk along a two km (mile) stretch of Sydney’s iconic beaches.

Festival founding director David Handley said Barrie was “quietly elated” by the win.

“She’s been very private for the last decade or so and I wasn’t even aware that she was still alive. I picked her up, I said, ‘May, why haven’t you been in our show before?’,” he told Reuters.

He said Barrie had drawn out the natural beauty of the stone, despite granite being particularly difficult to work with.

Barrie said she would share the A$60,000 ($54,000) first prize with her family.

Reporting by Jehane Sharah, editing by James Grubel and Miral Fahmy

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