BUSAN - Sculptures dot the empty beach of Songdo in Busan for the biennial Sea Art Festival, filling the deserted area left by beachgoers who crowded the popular beach on the southern coast just a month ago.
Now, a walk along the beach has become a cultural experience with the presence of 34 sculptures by international artists from 11 countries such as Brazil, Canada, China, Italy, Taiwan and India.
"The Sea Art Festival is an art event taking place by the sea. It is a rare event that brings out creativity inspired by the sea and revive the identity of the port city of Busan," said Park Tae-won, artistic director of the festival, at the press guided tour on Saturday.
The Sea Art Festival was launched in 1987 as a cultural event to celebrate the first Olympic Games Korea ever hosted. It has since been leading the vibrant cultural scene in Busan, held every two years, rotating with the Busan Biennale.
This year's Sea Art Festival aims to revive the fame of the once popular beach town of Songdo before Haeundae and Gwanganli took over as the top tourist spots in Busan with luxury hotels.
"Songdo Beach used to attract an average of 200,000 visitors a day in the summer when the city's total population was just 150,000," wrote the district mayor of Seo-gu, where Songdo Beach is located, in a recent column in Busan Daily marking the opening of the Sea Art Festival.
Whether the festival will help Songdo Beach regain its past glory will require the passage of much time, but for now the beach is a hospitable place for gigantic sculptures to be on display in the mild wind and warm weather.
"This is a wonderful place to view sculptures. The sizes of the artworks beautifully incorporate into the environment," said Ron Swann, senior representative of Sculpture by the Sea, Australia's largest outdoor sculpture exhibition.
The sculptures are scattered along the beach, or float offshore. Cho Eun-pil's "Choppy Castle," a floating sculpture made with blue mesh fabric, drifts in harmony with the light blue sky and the water.
Just on the water's edge, a gigantic robot inspired by the much-loved Korean robot character Robot Taekwon V stands as if trying to move forward to the land. Against the backdrop of cargo ships, the robot sculpture creates a scene that brings nostalgia to those who grew up watching the animated movie from the 1970s to '90s and attracts children to the superhero emerging from the water.
Many sculptures aim for interactive exchange with visitors such as Thai artist group Sanitas Studio's air balloon sculptures in the form of celadon vases on the beach. Looking hard like celadon, the sculptures move at the smallest push from the visitors.
Korean artist Song Sung-jin's scaled down version of high-rise buildings on the sand warn against rapid urban development taking place in the beach towns of Haeundae and Dongbaek Island in Busan.
The artist who sees the urban development as a sign of losing "unique characteristics of places" made a virtual world of skyscrapers which are gradually washed over by the tide.
The festival, which continues through Oct. 13, features various events such as art market and art workshops throughout the festival period.
For more information, call (051)-501-6111, or visit www.busanbiennale.org.