Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Ice Bear cometh to Sydney

As a conservator I have long been of the view that the main purpose of our work is not the conservation of artworks and objects per se, but rather providing through our conservation work the ability for those items to tell their stories. So it is not a long leap to my latest project, the Sydney Ice Bear Project, which uses an artwork to metaphorically tell a massive story, namely the impact of climate change on the environment,

I first met Mark Coreth, the artist behind the Ice Bear Project, four years ago, although I had been aware of his work as one of the UK’s preeminent animal sculptors for some time. A number of his wonderful life size animal bronzes are in private collections in Australia, which we look after. Mark has long been a keen environmentalist, but a visit to Baffin Island to sculpt polar bears led him to want to do more to promote awareness of their plight.

So he came up with the concept of creating a polar bear in ice, and then letting it melt to reveal a bronze skeleton as a metaphor for the melting ice caps and the impact on the polar bears, and indeed more broadly on our planet.

The first ice bear was a centrepiece of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) stand at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, with the second following in Trafalgar Square, London.  A travelling ice bear was carved in early 2010 in Quebec, before moving to Ottawa and finally Montreal where it melted, and then another in Toronto in June last year. The latest was carved on 31 March in Manchester. Check out this video from the BBC of last week's carving.  The Ice Bear is a highly dramatic artwork, and has received much media attention at each venue.

Anyway, I have been keen to see the Ice Bear in Australia ever since I heard about it. The Ice Bear team have been working to bring it here for the past year, and finally we have the funding for it to take place around World Environment Day on June 5th on the forecourt of the Customs House, Sydney.

Mark will be carving the ice bear over 6 hours from dawn on Thursday June 2nd and the bear will then start melting (we reckon it will take 4-5 days at that time of year) with a major public event around the melting sculpture to be held on Sunday June 5th involving some leading climate change experts. WWF, 1millionwomen and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition will all be project partners.

The frozen ice bear, encased in a large box and weighing over 9 tonnes, actually arrived in Sydney late last year, and has been in cold storage since then.  International Conservation Services are managing the logistics for the Ice Bear Project in Sydney, so we shall be placing it in the forecourt pre-dawn on June 2nd ready for Mark and his team to carve away. I will keep you posted on progress as the time nears.  Put the dates in your diary now, and come and see it if you are in town.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

A non-political project, Ice Bear made its world debut at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009, attracting global attention.  Sydney Ice Bear will encourage the public to visit and touch the sculpture and learn more about the impacts of climate change.  It will be on display from Thursday 2 June to Friday 10 June 2011.

Sydney Ice Bear has been made possible with the support of the Purves Environmental Fund.  Additional support has been provided by the City of Sydney, public and fine art conservators International Conservation Services and social marketing and communications agency Momentum2, as well as Aurora ExpeditionsWWF Australia, 1millionwomen and AYCC are partners in the project, and all funds raised locally will go to support these partner organisations.

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