Sydney Modern Opens with Free Nine-Day Program
By Qin Wang, Pamela Wong
The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) will inaugurate its new Sydney Modern project on December 3 with a series of free events lined up through December 11. Expanding the AGNSW to nearly double its previous exhibition space, the art complex features a new standalone SANAA-designed building and faces the Sydney Harbour. The new campus spans a triangular area of 22,000 square meters that reaches both the Royal Botanic Gardens and open-air venue The Domain.
The reopening has attracted more than 15,000 people who signed up for a visit and for the series of free events scheduled through the nine-day celebration. Curated for the occasion, the art exhibitions that open on Saturday will showcase works by more than 900 local and international artists, and focus on reintroducing the AGNSW’s collection through themes such as the display of Indigenous Art in “Yiribana Gallery”; AGNSW’s latest acquisitions and contemporary art collection in “Making Worlds”; a survey of the different depictions of anti-heroes in “Outlaw”; and works that revolve around the definition of belonging in “Dreamhome.” Across the outdoor space of the complex are also nine newly commissioned works by Australian and international artists.
To engage with the public and celebrate its reopening throughout the week, the AGNSW will also host a series of panel discussions, performances, and workshops. Artists Lisa Reihana, Reko Rennie, Howie Tsui, and Adrián Villar Rojas, as well as curators and art professionals from international art institutions will discuss the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the art world today. The performances spotlight choreographic works by Riana Head-Toussaint, a multidisciplinary artist with disability, and filmmaker and martial artist Maria Tran in the exhibition “Outlaw.” In addition, Grammy-nominated singer Ellie Goulding will hold an outdoor concert in The Domain, a 34-hectare area near Sydney’s business district, alongside supporting acts by Australian singer Meg Mac and music duo Electric Fields.
AGNSW’s new building, the center of the expansion, comprises three limestone-clad pavilions facing and descending into the harbor. The 250 meters of rammed earth walls were constructed using local materials transported from across the region. In addition to the roofs, which were turned into 3,400-square-meter “art terraces,” the underground 2,200-square-meter exhibition space has been transformed from a decommissioned World War II fuel tank, which will open with a newly commissioned work by Adrián Villar Rojas.
The building is designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the Japanese architectural firm SANAA, who recently won the 2022 Praemium Imperiale award for architecture after winning the Pritzker Prize in 2010, and assisted by the local firm Architectus. Sejima and Nishizawa explained, “Working closely with the [AGNSW] team, we aimed to design an art museum building that is harmonious with its surroundings, one that breathes with the city, the park and the harbour.”
AGNSW director Michael Brand stated: “Our vision has been to transform the Art Gallery into an art museum campus with seamless connections between art, architecture and landscape . . . With the support of the NSW government, our donors, staff, artists and a wide community of supporters, our vision is now a reality. This is especially significant given the challenges we faced during the past three years of construction and impact of bushfires, the global pandemic and record-breaking rainfall.”
Ben Franklin, minister for Aboriginal affairs, the arts, regional youth, and tourism described the renovation as “a once-in-a-generation project” and said, “The Art Gallery is an institution with a truly ambitious vision, supporting partnerships, educational programming, sector connections and leadership. This is ‘Art for all’ to inspire joy, connection and enrichment.”
Qin Wang is an editorial intern and Pamela Wong is an associate editor at ArtAsiaPacific.