A vast iron sculpture by Israeli sculptress Dina Merhav was one of 46 pieces — chosen from a field of 2,327 works by 538 artists from 63 countries — to be installed in a dramatic desert setting as part of the recent International Desert Sculpture Symposium & Land Art Festival in Minqin County, northwest China.

Merhav, 83, is a resident of the Ein Hod artist colony in Israel’s Carmel region. Her iron sculptures are displayed in several countries including at Olympic Park in Beijing and other Chinese locations.

Although initially she hesitated to make the long trip to North China, she found the festival to be “a fantastic, exciting and enriching experience. Of course, the most dramatic moment was the sight of my sculpture, ‘Walking 2019,’ rising from the sand.”

The painted iron work stands 720 centimeters (23.6 feet) high and depicts four red figures “walking towards a better world, a world filled with love rather than aggression.”

At the opening ceremony in July, some 40,000 people came to the Suwu Desert to see and photograph the artworks, 23 of them by Chinese sculptors and 23 by foreign sculptors.

“It was remarkable to see how the Chinese people are so interested in culture and especially in sculpture — a phenomenon that was apparent also the next day when, despite of some very strong desert winds, many people were visiting the sculpture park and taking photos,” says Merhav.

She gave a short speech about the influence of outdoor sculpture on the surroundings, drawing on her experience of building several sculpture parks. One that she created for an industrial park near Haifa was found to improve workers’ attitude and efficiency.

“Another example was the sculpture park I created in memory of my family, the Gross family, that has become a major tourist attraction in my birth-town Vinkovci in Croatia.”