Sculpture in the Vineyards 2020 gets underway at Wollombi on October 17

SPECTACULAR: Sculpture in the Vineyards curator Wendy Black overseeing the installation of Karl Meyer's work, titled 'Life Support'.

SPECTACULAR: Sculpture in the Vineyards curator Wendy Black overseeing the installation of Karl Meyer's work, titled 'Life Support'.

Wollombi's highly acclaimed cultural festival, Sculpture in the Vineyards, will get underway this Saturday.

Now in its 18th year, the festival will exhibit $2.5 million worth of sculptures from some of Australia's leading artists across various indoor and outdoor spaces throughout the Wollombi Valley.

The 16-day exhibition celebrates contemporary sculpture in all its forms - from sophisticated, modernist art works set against a backdrop of hillsides and valleys, to whimsical and often ephemeral works specifically designed for the vineyards.

Renowned Sydney art dealer Stella Downer, with the collaboration of four vineyards, was instrumental in bringing the exhibition in Wollombi in 2002.

Now the longest running regional outdoor sculpture exhibition in Australia, from small beginnings it's grown to a million-dollar affair which attracts thousands of visitors to Wollombi.

After the triple-whammy of the drought, bushfires and COVID-19 in the past 12 months, the event is set to provide a much-needed boost to the area.

Festival director Susan Leith-Miller encourages local art lovers to head to Wollombi and check it out.

"It's big and it's beautiful, and if you love art, food and wine, then this is the place to be," she said.

Leith-Miller is thrilled with the number and quality of 2020's entries.

This year, 166 works from 103 sculptors have been selected for the exhibition (up from 93 in 2019) from the 300 national and international submissions received.

The show will include works by seven previous Sculpture by the Sea major prize winners - Peter Lundberg, Paul Selwood, Jorg Plickat, Michael le Grand, Stephen King, Libby Bloxham and Harrie Fasher.

Highly-respected artists including Stephen Coburn, Ron Robertson-Swann, Ayako Saito, Peter Tilley, Louis Pratt, Fiona Kemp, Hui Selwood, James McCallum and Robert Barnstone (who won the major prize in 2019) also feature on the program.

Emerging artists Amanda Lockton and Daniel Schwartz have been selected again this year.

The spectacular sculptures are located at Undercliff Wines, Stonehurst Wines at Cedar Creek, Great Northern Trading Post (GNTP) at Laguna and in the village of Wollombi itself; and indoor venues including the Old Fireshed Gallery, Blender Gallery, Wollombi Community Hall, GNTP and The Old Dance Hall.

All works are available for purchase.

The local community will be highly involved in the festival, with a daily program of talks and tours designed for visitors.

A two-hour tour will run each day at 10am from the Tennis Club at a cost of $10 per person (children under 12 free).

Dinners will be held at Myrtle House on October 17, GNTP on October 24 and Grays Inn on October 31 (contact the venue for bookings).

Entry to Sculpture in the Vineyards is free. The exhibitions will be open daily from 10am to 4pm, concluding November 1.