art gallery of new south wales reveals its opening program

step inside the newly expanded art gallery of new south wales

The Art Gallery of New South Wales unveiled its new exhibitions, collection displays, and inaugural Tank commission with artist Adrián Villar Rojas, as part of the Sydney Modern Project led by SANAA. The opening program, featuring works by more than 900 Australian and international artists, will be free to visitors when the transformed art gallery opens December 3, 2022. Located on Gadigal Country, overlooking Sydney Harbour, the expanded space comprises the new and existing late-19th-century buildings, connected by an art garden.

‘The much-loved existing building has been revitalized with beautifully refurbished spaces restoring architectural features, and a fully re-installed collection across all galleries. Visitors can journey through time, ideas, human stories and contested histories,’ shares the gallery.

Art Gallery of New South Wales Director Dr. Michael Brand adds: ‘My vision for the Sydney Modern Project has been to transform the Art Gallery into an art museum campus with seamless connections between art, architecture and landscape; a generous and intelligent art museum that believes the art of the past is crucial to understanding the art of our own times.’

‘Wall drawings #955’ by Sol LeWitt in the gallery’s John Kaldor Family Hall
image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Christopher Snee

Proposing the world seen from Sydney, the opening program at the art gallery contributions to critical global conversations. Visitors will encounter works across the campus that engage, inspire, provoke, and delight. Recent acquisitions and commissions by artists on display for the first time include Khadim Ali, Karla Dickens, Jeffrey Gibson, Samara Golden, Barkley L Hendricks, kimsooja, Simone Leigh, Sanne Master, Elizabeth Pulie, Shireen Taweel, Howie Tsui and justene williams.

Ultimately, the SANAA-designed extension ‘almost doubles our exhibition space and, with a more porous connection between indoors and outdoors, delivers new types of spaces for new thinking and new forms of art,’ comments Dr. Brand.

art gallery of new south wales' opening program to be headlined by adrián villar rojas

The ‘Tank’ space, a former WWII bunker
image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Jenni Carter

Adrián Villar Rojas revealed as the inaugural artist

Minister for the Arts and Tourism Ben Franklin also announced Argentinian-Peruvian Adrián Villar Rojas as the inaugural artist commissioned for the underground gallery known as the ‘Tank.’ Located on the lowest level of the new building, the 2,200 sqm former WWII oil tank, now a spectacular exhibition space, will be enlivened by Villar Rojas’ immersive artwork, ‘The End of Imagination’, which will be unveiled during the opening in December .

The installation is the culmination of a four-year-long engagement with the Art Gallery, and is sure to make visitors engulfed in Villar Rojas’ world. The artist is most known for his collaborative, site-specific sculptures, including the intervention on The Met roof in New York in 2017.

Villar Rojas, who first visited the Art Gallery in 2018, states: ‘The project that has grown in the four years following is the product of many hands, many minds, many conversations, many questions, and many mediums including the virtual and physical. And one of the most important mediums has been time – the time to dwell in a space, to talk with everyone from archivists to Indigenous curators to conservators, to push ideas and technologies, and to draw into the project the conditions of a world that have changed massively.’

art gallery of new south wales' opening program to be headlined by adrián villar rojas

live environmental simulation generated by ‘Time Engine’ software | © Adrian Villar Rojas (2022)
image courtesy of Art Gallery of New South Wales

The completion of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ expansion not only offers more art for more people but also unveils a hidden treasure – a former Second World War naval fuel tank masterfully repurposed as a world-class exhibition space, where visitors will be able to view this first Tank commission, The End of Imagination,’ Franklin shares. ‘Adrián is internationally renowned for his vast, site-specific installations that offer immersive art experiences. On behalf of the NSW Government, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to experience his work from 3 December.’

art gallery of new south wales' opening program to be headlined by adrián villar rojas

Villar Rojas during his visit at the ‘Tank’
image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mim Sterling

new, spellbinding spaces and exhibitions to discover

Nine bold and compelling new commissions that will be on display both inside and outside the new building include Francis Uprichard’s ‘Here Comes Everybody’, a trio of playful pairs of bronze beings that will greet visitors in the Welcome Plaza; Jonathan Jones’ ‘bial gwiyuŋo’ (the fire is not yet lighted), a living artwork at the heart of the expanded Art Gallery; Lisa Reihana‘s (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tū) moving-image work ‘GROUNDLOOP’, overlooking the central atrium; Richard Lewer‘s multi-panel painting ‘Onsite’, and Yayoi Kusama‘s ‘Flowers’ that bloom in the cosmos, which will be prominently positioned on the stepped terrace overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay.

Entering the new spaces, visitors will be welcomed by the inaugural display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the relocated Yiribana Gallery. The collection celebrates ideas generosity and care and emphasizes connections between people.art gallery of new south wales' opening program to be headlined by adrián villar rojas

installation view of the Yiribana Gallery
image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Jenni Carter

Other exhibitions include: ‘Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter’ – artists reflect on ‘home’ from their own richly local perspectives while also registering shared hopes and anxieties that are felt in many places at this time; ‘Making Worlds’ – featuring ideas of mapping, time, creation and connection centered around Kimsooja’s monumental participatory work ‘Archive of mind’ in the sizeable column-free gallery; and ‘Outlaw’ – celebrating the antiheroes of popular culture in the Art Gallery’s first purpose-built new media gallery.

Meanwhile, ‘From Here, for Now’ works in ten curated rooms presents and begins with Australia’s outback as a signifier of national identity, connecting this with American stereotypes of outsiders, and hidden histories, through works by Charlene Carrington, Rosemary Laing, Robert MacPherson, Richard Prince and Kaylene Whiskey. It also features a new commission, Simryn Gill’s latest major work ‘Clearing’, responding to elements of the natural history of the new building’s site.

art gallery of new south wales' opening program to be headlined by adrián villar rojas

top: ‘Rally’ (2014) by Nike Savvas, wall: ‘Solstice’ (1974) by Lesley Dumbrell at the 20th-century galleries
image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Christopher Snee

Complementing the exhibition are 20th-century galleries showcasing works from the Art Gallery’s Australian and international collections that highlight the connections and distinctions between local artists and broader global developments over some most tumultuous, exciting and innovative decades in art and human history. This new display includes the restaging of Ken Unsworth’s ‘Suspended stone circle II’, with 103 river stones each weighing around 15kg suspended by 309 wires, now hanging over two levels for the first time in the newly unveiled atrium.

Visitors will also get to enjoy Asian Lantern – featuring the ‘Correspondence’ show marking important moments in Asian art and history, and ‘Elemental’, which investigates the natural elements of earth, water and fire. Last but not least, the Grand Courts focuses on the Art Gallery’s historical collections, enlivened by contemporary voices that encourage moments of pause and reflection.

art gallery of new south wales' opening program to be headlined by adrián villar rojas

‘Suspended stone circle II’ (1974-77, 1988) by Ken Unsworth at the 20th-century galleries
image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Christopher Sneeart gallery of new south wales' opening program to be headlined by adrián villar rojas

installation view of the 20th-century galleries
image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Christopher Snee

project info:

name: Art Gallery of NSW – part of the Sydney Modern Project

location: Sydney, Australia

architecture: SANAA

inaugural artist: Adrian Villar Rojas

featured artists: 900+

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