A giant inflatable turtle, a shining diamond forgotten in the sands and oversized Scrabble tiles are just some of the highlights of this year’s internationally acclaimed SWELL Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast.

Held from 9 to 18 September on the Golden sands of Currumbin Beach, this year’s Swell Sculpture Festival will see 50 dynamic sculptures created by 55 artists.

More than 250,000 visitors are expected to wander amongst the diverse installations, as local and international artists compete for a range of coveted awards.

Now in its 14th year, the 10-day exhibition has been instrumental in engaging the community in a vibrant cultural dialogue as artists from across the country and the world display thought-provoking works that highlight a range of social, environmental and contemporary issues.

SWELL director and curator, Natasha Edwards says the event has grown to become an integral part of the Gold Coast’s identity and is recognised by the international art community as a showcase of eccentric diversity.

“Each year, we are proud to present a unique, outdoor exhibition connecting people, art and place with the intention to inspire our audience with the diversity and quality of the works displayed, which range from whimsical and fun-spirited to pieces carrying a serious message of conservation,” she says.

“This year’s final selection by the curatorial panel represents some of the finest sculptural talent from Australia, as well as from New Zealand and Colombia.”

“We are excited to host the debut of new work by some of the world’s most cutting-edge artists, while it is also wonderful to see a number of artists who have previously exhibited return to SWELL once again to join in the collaborative spirit and rich cultural experience of the festival.”

New to SWELL this year, Far North Queensland artist BJ Price will exhibit The Alpha Turtle, a giant inflatable sculpture affectionately dubbed ‘Big Alphy’.

Measuring 10.5m wide by 5m high, the colossal sea creature adorned with striking black-and-white patterns inspired by the Great Barrier Reef was created as an environmental statement, with the artist aiming to promote the use of creativity in addressing ocean health issues.

International artist Emma Anna is among those returning to SWELL this year. The Colombian-based Australian artist has chosen the festival to debut her latest work following the global success of Imagine – the piece she exhibited at SWELL in 2010 which has now featured at more than 30 locations around the world.

Like Imagine, Anna’s new installation is a highly interactive and engaging work conceptualised around an oversized Scrabble word made of recycled timbers and aerated concrete.

The word – to remain a mystery until it’s unveiling at the exhibition – contains six tiles and is worth 11 points.

Brisbane-based artist Guiseppe Filardo is another returning artist and will exhibit an oversized shining diamond necklace constructed of stainless steel and lead lights, a continuation of his fascination with lost objects that inspired last year’s popular installation of a large pair of glasses titled I Sea.

An accomplished artist whose work has been included in many national exhibitions over the last 20 years, Filardo’s work considers the diverse aspects of human impact and interaction on the environment and is a representation of bricolage – the artistic process of creating works from a range of available materials.

SWELL will also feature a collaborative piece, titled Antidote and depicting a colony of ants, created by Gold Coast artist Andrew Cullen with students of the Visual Arts Academy of Helensvale State High School.

The 2016 Curatorial Panel faced the difficult challenge of final selection and comprised of Professor Derrick Cherrie from the Queensland College of Art, Simone Oriti of Urban Art Projects, Dr Daniel Templeman from the Brisbane City Council, SWELL founder Natasha Edwards and SWELL director Ruth Della.

Gold Coast City Art Gallery director and judge of the major SWELL Sculpture Award, Tracy Cooper-Lavery says the outstanding number of local artists chosen to exhibit reflected the depth of talent in South-East Queensland.

“SWELL has a real maturity about it now, and is a fantastic opportunity for local practitioners from this region to be seen in context with nationally and internationally recognised artists,” she says.

“With the breadth of high-quality work on display, alongside a full program of workshops and events designed to encourage community engagement, SWELL is also an unmatched opportunity for local skill development.”

“I think the outstanding level of work coming out of this region can easily fit with the highest calibre of work seen in other national competitions.”

The prizes are valued at over $32,000 this year, including the new $5,000 Neumann Family Award, and for the first time each exhibiting artist will receive a contribution of $500.

In addition are the Currumbin Beach Vikings SLSC People’s Choice Award, the Currumbin RSL Kids’ Choice Award and Max Fabre Foundation Environmental Awareness Award – each worth $3,000 – and the $1,500 Jennie Neumann OAM Emerging Artist Award.

The Swell Sculpture Festival will be held from 9 to 18 September at Currumbin Beach. For more information visit www.swellsculpture.com.au