Sydney’s International Art Series Launches a “Double Header”
By Michael Young
Last week, The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) and Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) jointly launched the 2013–14 edition of The Sydney International Art Series (SIAS) with a “double header” that will bring a Yoko Ono show and a comprehensive survey of 200 years of American art to the two galleries this November.
At the MCA, “War is Over! (if you want it): Yoko Ono” will celebrate five decades of the artist’s career with no less than 30 participatory installations. Visitors will be invited to take Helmets/ Pieces of Sky (2001)–sky-patterned jigsaw pieces that fill World War II helmets—romantically envisaging a future when all the pieces are reconnected, or may even be lucky enough to speak to the artist on the phone in Telephone in Amaze (1971/2011).
Though Ono’s work recalls an era of acute personal optimism, when young people believed they could change the world by simply uttering the words “I Love You” (a phrase Ono frequently lavishes on spectators at her media conferences), don’t expect the expected. Rachel Kent, chief curator at the MCA, is working closely with Ono on the exhibition, and has described the artist variously as enigmatic, affirmative, feminist and passivist—someone who “always defies categorization.”
A different flavor of nostalgia will be showcased at the AGNSW, with “America: Painting a Nation,” which features American art from 1750 to 1966. Edward Hopper’s House at Dusk (1935) will be among the works on display—the first time the artist has been exhibited in Australia.
The show is seen as a step in a “significant new direction,” says AGNSW director Michael Brand, who hopes that it will foster ties with art museums in the United States and help the Australian public engage more with American art and culture.
New South Wales state government arts minister George Souris has cited such world-class exhibitions as being both lucrative for the state and good for the soul. Now in its fourth year, SIAS has already generated AUD 80 million in funds, and these two exhibitions are anticipated to continue this trend.