Both artists and curators have been announced for The National 2021: New Australian Art, a major collaboration between three of Sydney’s biggest cultural institutions: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA).
The National 2021, which will open on 26 March across all three venues, is the third edition of this biennial initiative. The survey of new Australian art has proved to be very popular: works by 149 contemporary Australian artists were seen by some 600,000 visitors during the 2017 and 2019 iterations.
Initially conceived of as a six-year-long project, AGNSW, Carriageworks and the MCA have committed to continuing of The National beyond 2021.
The National 2021 will feature 39 new and commissioned works by contemporary Australian artists from remote communities such as the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands), Yirrkala, Zendah Kes (Torres Strait Islands), and Belyuen, as well as urban and regional centres. And the artists have been selected by four curators at the three venues: curator of Asian art Matt Cox and assistant curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art Erin Vink at AGNSW, independent curator Abigail Moncrieff at Carriageworks, and chief curator Rachel Kent at MCA.
While the curators will work independently at each venue, they have identified overlapping curatorial themes that include “a focus on the environment, its destruction and our planetary responsibility; global uncertainty; and our relationship to Country, collaboration and inter-generational learning.”
Co-curators Matt Cox and Erin Vink have selected 14 projects for AGNSW that explore the healing potential of art.
“The National 2021 at AGNSW will examine different modes of care: how it engenders our relationships with each other, how we navigate these relationships, and in turn the relationships we have with sentient Country,” said Cox and Vink. “Preferencing Indigenous ways of knowing, seeing and being, the exhibition will explore these ideas of care through varied forms of expression, including languages that are written, spoken or expressed by the body.”
For Carriageworks, curator Abigail Moncrieff has chosen 13 projects by more than 40 artists which, she says, respond to the key issues of our time
“The artists are connected across generations and brought together by a spirit of collaboration,” said Moncrieff. “With an attention to the present moment, many of the works consider responsibility and lived experience through psychological and intuitive responses, alongside some of the most urgent and activist voices from around Australia.”
At the MCA, chief curator Rachel Kent will present the work of 13 artists that share an interest in storytelling, intergenerational learning, and the environment.
“Women’s practice is central to The National 2021 at the MCA, explored through diasporic and familial histories, labour and learning, and wider mythological narratives,” Kent said. “Symbiosis in nature, revealed through the co-habitation of diverse creatures (termites, ants, birds and their eggs) in the termite mounds of north-east Arnhem Land is an enduring motif in the exhibition, demonstrating patterns of connection and the balance of all things in the natural world.”
Entry to the exhibition will be free at all three venues.
Artists exhibiting at the AGNSW: Agatha Gothe-Snape, Fiona Hall, Gabriella Hirst, Wona Bae and Charlie Lawler, Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton, Lisa Sammut, Benjamin Sexton, Justin Shoulder, Leyla Stevens, Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Abdullah MI Syed, Alick Tipoti, James Tylor, Judy Watson.
Artists exhibiting at Carriageworks: A Constructed World, Vernon Ah Kee and Dalisa Pigram with Marrugeku, Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley, Mitch Cairns, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Alana Hunt, Karrabing Film Collective, Michelle Nikou, Sarah Rodigari, Darren Sylvester, Brendan Van Hek, Isadora Vaughan.