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  • May 27, 2020

Biennale of Sydney Returns for Second Act

Installation view of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2020. Photo by

The Biennale of Sydney (BoS) announced on May 27 that its 22nd edition will reopen on June 1 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artspace, and Campbelltown Arts Centre. The multivenue event was shuttered on March 24, just ten days after its launch, due to Covid-19. The event's two other sites, Cockatoo Island and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, will reopen on June 16. 

New South Wales has been emerging from lockdown with the gradual lifting of strict social-distancing rules in the state since May 15. On May 20, premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that galleries and museums will reopen from June 1 with new health protocols in place. The Biennale, titled “Nirin,” the Wiradjuri word for “edge,” was originally scheduled to run until June 8, and will now be open until September 6 with the closing date differing for some venues. Speaking of the reopening, chief executive officer of BoS, Barbara Moore said in a press release that “Now, more than ever, we need art to connect, collaborate and heal—all core themes of Nirin . . . the extended exhibition dates gives people an opportunity to enjoy some of the best contemporary art from around the world, and there is no better way to do that than through a physical experience.”

The 22nd BoS, directed by Wiradjuri artist Brook Andrew, highlights the alternative narratives of history and of diverse cultural communities that steer away from Eurocentric perspectives. Despite the setbacks of the previous months, BoS has presented a series of virtual programs including a Spotify playlist curated by the rock band Ripped Effect, and a recorded conversation between Andrew and four Indigenous activists discussing Indigenous life before and after captain James Cook’s arrival in Australia on the 250th anniversary of his landing, which has garnered more than 600,000 views.

The Biennale will proceed without its long-standing partner, the multidisciplinary arts space Carriageworks, a major venue for BoS since 2012. Earlier on May 5, the organization revealed that it had gone into voluntary administration under the firm KPMG due to financial difficulties exacerbated by Covid-19. The board reflected that a six-month halt to art festivals including the Sydney Writers’ Festival and the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia has rendered its demise inevitable.

Charmaine Kong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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