Over four million visitors have seen and experienced the works of some 1800 artists from more than 100 countries since The Biennale of Sydney first started back in 1973. This year, the Biennale hosts its 21st edition and marks its 45th anniversary.
Running from March 16 to June 11, this year’s diverse contemporary art program was curated by artistic director Mami Kataoka, a reputed curator, writer and lecturer on contemporary art and chief curator at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum.
The theme for this year’s Biennale is ‘Superposition: Equilibrium and Engagement’. In her curatorial statement on the ‘Superposition’ theme, Kataoka says: ‘The 21st Biennale of Sydney title borrows the quantum mechanical term ‘superposition’ to link the notions of equilibrium and engagement. In quantum theory, ‘superposition’ refers to the ability of electrons to occupy multiple states at once, to simultaneously take opposing paths and end up in different places. It is only with the application of measurement that matter is reduced to a single definition.’
Mami Kataoka Biennale of Sydney
She notes: “[…] The participating artists in the 21st Biennale of Sydney have been chosen to offer a panoramic view of how opposing understandings and interpretations can come together in a state of ‘equilibrium.’ My hope is that their artworks will serve as a catalyst for thinking about these principles and concerns, taking one’s own position in society as a starting point.”
A huge program of contemporary art events
Seven venues will host works by 70 artists hailing from Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America and Europe. Events from the free public program include talks, exhibitions, tours, screenings, workshops and experiences, across these venues:
The Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Art Gallery of New South Wales has been a partner venue of The Biennale of Sydney since 1976, and will be hosting an exhibition with works drawn from its archives that reflect this four-decades-long relationship. It will also show the works of 17 artists including Sydney Ball, Roy Wiggan, Roy de Maistre, Wathaurung elder Marlene Gilson and Cambodian art collective Sa Sa Art Projects.
Woolloomooloo’s Artspace will host the works of five remarkable artists including Indian artist Tanya Goel, Vietnamese artist Tiffany Chung, Flemish painter Michaël Borremans, and China’s Ai Weiwei and Geng Xue.
A series of large-scale immersive installations, including works by UK-based duo Semiconductor and Pintupi artist George Tjungurrayi, will be shown in former railyard and multi-arts venue Carriageworks in Eveleigh.
The works of 20 artists will be exhibited on UNESCO World-Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island, including renowned activist and artist Ai Weiwei’s ‘Law of the Journey’, 2017, a 60-metre inflatable boat with 250 figures made from the same rubber as the rickety rafts that many refugees take to make on the treacherous Aegean Sea journey from Turkey to Greece.
Ai Weiwei, Law of the Journey, 2017, reinforced PVC with aluminium frame, 3 x 60 x 6 m. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Ai Weiwei Studio
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Australia
Two levels of the MCA will be dedicated to showcasing the works of 18 Biennale artists, including Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, Brook Andrew, Marc Bauer, Esme Timbery, and Nicole Wong.
Sydney Opera House
The relationship between The Biennale of Sydney is a long-running one, with the Opera House’s opening celebrations incorporating the inaugural launch of the Biennale in 1973. The Opera House will host Oliver Beer’s ‘Resonance Project’, Rayyane Tabet’s work inspired by Opera House architect Jørn Utzon, and the Sydney premiere of Human Flow, Ai Weiwei’s feature film on the global refugee crisis (along with a separate keynote ‘In Conversation’ event with Weiwei on March 15).
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art (4A)
Haymarket art gallery 4A will exhibit works by Japanese artist Akira Takayama and Chinese artist Jun Yang.
Visit The Biennale of Sydney site for the full program of events.