Art lovers, your weekend is sorted. Here's our plan of everything you need to check out, from ticketed blockbusters to small-scale freebies. If you're looking further ahead, consult our list of art exhibitions to see in Sydney this month.
RECOMMENDED: The best art galleries in Sydney.
Arts space Cement Fondu have turned to African American writer, feminist and activist Audre Lorde for inspiration for their latest public project. Inspired by Lorde’s 1981 speech to America’s National Women’s Studies Association, in which she argued that anger was “an appropriate reaction” to the racism experienced by African American women, the gallery has curated a series of exhibitions and live events from women artists of colour responding to Lorde’s speech and examining the ways in which anger is used as a reductive, racist and gendered stereotype to devalue and dismiss them. Headlining the project is an exhibition of video performance works from French artist Tabita Rezaire, who is of Guyanese and Danish descent and whose work examines the legacies of colonialism and patriarchy on African women. Accompanying it will be an exhibition from Sydney-based Filipinx artist Eme, live events from Maori-Australian musician DJ Sezzo and Brisbane-based visual artist Hannah Brontë, and a new work from performance company Black Birds, who created the excellent Te Molimau earlier this year.
Sydney-based artist Taloi Havini is having her first solo exhibition at Artspace as part of Sydney Festival. Born in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Havini’s work is all about the politics of Oceania; its contested histories, notions of ownership and colonisation, and exploring sacred sites. In this exhibition, she’s looking at ideas around resistance and self-determination, using a new site-specific installation created with her Hakö clan members, as well as an immersive multi-channel video and sound installation.
Vernon Ah Kee is one of the most diverse artists working in Australia at the moment, with work that ranges from large-scale drawings to text-based works, installations and video. He offers searing critiques of Australian culture from an Indigenous perspective (as a member of the Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Yidinji and Gugu Yimithirr peoples) and is set to do so in this show at Campbelltown Arts Centre. The focus is on his video work (including a three-channel video called ‘The Island’, which features testimony from two asylum seekers) but there’s also work from across his 20-year career in all forms.
You probably know Kevin McCloud best as the quizzical, then skeptical, but ultimately impressed and delighted host of Grand Designs. Hell, we’ve been binging the British TV show that sees idealistic new homebuyers try to create innovative, unique (and often impossible) dwellings for two decades. And ol’ Kev has been there, watching the projects inevitably go over budget and over time, since day dot. But the television host, writer, environmentalist and amateur balloonist has many more skills and intriguing stories than those solely amassed on his architectural adventures. The World According to Kevin McCloud is being pitched as a live theatre show (although it may evolve, Grand Designs-style, into more of a theatrical talk) detailing McCloud’s experiences as a TV host, but also about his personal life, which is peppered with fun facts. Did you know McCloud’s father was a rocket scientist? Or that the beloved TV personality actually did study the history of architecture at Cambridge University? Wild. You’ll glean more of these Kevin nuggets when he visits Sydney’s State Theatre on February 21, 2020. The live show will include a Q&A session so you can really get to know this charming Brit, as well as experiments, anecdotes and, of course, some grand designs. McCloud is personally promising “...some very poor music and maybe a little construction mayhem. No hard hat necessary.” Tickets go on sale from Monday, November 4.
Kudjala and Gangalu artist Daniel Boyd is known for his signature style, which sits somewhere between traditional Aboriginal dot-painting and Impressionist pointilism. The dot motif has appeared in plenty of his work, from large-scale public art installations to smaller paintings. Now it will be exploded out into three immersive video installations at Carriageworks, as a dreamy cosmic journey through time immemorial. The Sydney Festival exhibition will also include a soundtrack by Boyd’s long-time collaborators, Crayons.
For the last two years, the Art Gallery of NSW has focussed on Europe in its big summer exhibitions: the Netherlands in Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age (2017-18), and Russia and France in Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage (2018-19). But this summer is all about Japan with an epic exhibition of more than 200 artworks from artists past and present. Japan Supernatural is at the AGNSW until March 2020 and features work from the country's most influential artist, Katsushika Hokusai, and new and old pieces from superstar artist Takashi Murakami, who is showcasing a supernatural installation in the gallery. If you've never heard of Murakami, here's what you need to know: he's collaborated with Louis Vuitton, designed the covers for two Kanye West albums and directed one of his music videos, and in 2008 was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people. The AGNSW exhibition is all about yōkai, the supernatural beings and spirits that are used to explain the inexplicable, so you can expect to leave feeling a little spooked. There are paintings, prints, Japanese cinema and animation and sculpture. There's work from Japan's past from Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Kawanabe Kyosai, with contemporary work from Chiho Aoshima and Miwa Yanagi. Read our interview with Takashi Murakami about his work in the exhibition.
In 2016, Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones gained plenty of attention for a major public artwork as part of Kaldor Public Art Projects. Using 15,000 white ceramic shields, he traced the footprint of the Royal Botanic Garden’s 19th century Garden Palace, which was destroyed in a fire in 1882, taking with it a treasure trove of irreplacable Aboriginal artefacts. Now Jones is creating another major public work using a different kind of footprint. Untitled (maraong manaóuwi) uses red and white gravel from Wiradjuri country to represent two familiar symbols: the maraong manaóuwi (the Gadigal term for ‘emu footprint’) and the English broad arrow insignia (representing British colonialism). They’ll be installed across 2,500 square metres of the Hyde Park Barracks courtyard from February 21. For three weeks, visitors will be invited to walk across the artwork, as the red and white gravel merges and disintegrates.
Ten leading contemporary artists from China and Australia are coming together for this free exhibition exploring Chinese mythology through a variety of forms. The exhibition is curated by Glenfield-based artist Guan Wei, who last year became the first Chinese-Australian artist to have a solo exhibition at the MCA, and Beijing-based performance artist Cang Xin. Traditional and contemporary forms come smashing together, with artists including Amy Fu, Gu Xiaoping, Jiang Zhe, Palla Jeroff, Yang Jinsong, Yang Xifa, Zhang Jin and Jin Sha.
Artexpress has now been running for 36 years, showing the best works submitted by high school art students for their HSC. And let's face it – it's pretty much every serious HSC art student's dream to make it into this exhibition and have their work shown at our city's biggest gallery. The artworks on display this year include sculpture, drawing, painting, graphic design and photo media. It always comes as a surprise as to just how high the standard is; the extraordinary technical skill of some of the students will make plenty of adults jealous. And while there mightn't always be a fully formed artistic vision, the works that make it into the exhibition are usually appropriately bold.
Carriageworks has been home to its fair share of large-scale artworks in recent years, including Nick Cave's monumental 'Until' and Daniel Buren's playground of oversized kids' toys. But Rebecca Baumann's 'Radiant Flux' reaches even further, turning the Redfern arts wonderland into a giant kaleidoscope of colour. For the installation, she's covered every glass surface of the main Carriageworks foyer – including the skylights – in dichroic film, a material that reflects and refracts light in a range of different colours, which evolve as the viewer moves and the light changes. Altogether, there's be more than 100 metres of glass wrapped with the film. 'Radiant Flux' will be open from January 8 until June 14. It's one of four major artworks commissioned by Carriageworks opening for Sydney Festival, transforming the galleries and performance spaces, each of them engaging with the architecture or history of the site.