A laser-cut, room-sized metal sculpture referencing reality TV has won a major UNSW prize at this year’s Sculpture by the Sea.

Anne Levitch’s metal sculpture, Reality TV, incorporating decoratively laser-cut portrait frames that reference 18th century drawing rooms, has been awarded the UNSW Alumni Award.

As a significant sponsor of Sculpture by the Sea, UNSW provides a $5,000 subsidy to a UNSW alumni artist each year.

Levitch wanted to create a work that encouraged public interaction and engagement. She said the addition of the portrait frames allows people to take photos of themselves and others.

“Centuries ago we used to hang pictures of our ancestors in our drawing rooms and look at them, but now we hang massive TVs on our lounge-room walls and look at ourselves,” said Levitch, who is a postgraduate at UNSW Art & Design and a former lecturer in UNSW Built Environment.

“The sculpture references reality TV because it is literally a box that allows passers-by to enter or walk around, peak inside, and further engage with if they so desire. There is also the ambiguity of who is the observer and who is the observed, that comes into play just like reality TV.”

Levitch said the sculpture quite literally frames the present in its prime position at Tamarama Beach, while the decorative laser-cut details are a nod to the past.

The winning design was selected by the Dean of UNSW Art & Design, Professor Ross Harley, who said Sculpture by the Sea is the perfect exhibition environment for Levitch’s work, which explores the relationship between art, space, natural and constructed environments. 

“Congratulations to Anne for her attention to detail and for her continuing exploration of the possibilities for contemporary sculpture,” Professor Harley said.

“Visitors have the opportunity to encounter, move around and interact with Anne’s intriguing work, individually, as part of social gathering and within a spectacular environment and setting. Her work stimulates curiosity and encourages exploration and close examination.”

Twelve other works by UNSW graduates make up the more than 100 sculptures featured in the 2016 Sculpture by the Sea. They include Alice McAuliffe, Harrie Fasher, Kate Fennell, Louis Pratt, Margarita Sampson, Mitchell Thomas, Paul Selwood, Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro, Simon Hodgson, and Sophie Clague.

Sculpture by the Sea transforms the 2km coastal walk between Bondi and Tamarama beaches into a temporary sculpture park annually. The free exhibition runs until 6 November.