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Biennale of Sydney

  • Art
  • Around Sydney, Sydney
  1. Installation view of Biennale of Sydney exhibitions at White Bay Power Station and AGNSW
    Photographs: Alannah Le Cross | Installation view of Biennale of Sydney exhibitions at White Bay Power Station and AGNSW
  2. Artist Kaylene Whiskey with her installation at White Bay Power Station - Biennale of Sydney 2024
    Photograph: Alannah Le Cross | Artist Kaylene Whiskey with her installation at White Bay Power Station
  3. 'The Koreri Transformation' by Udeido Collective at UNSW Galleries - Biennale of Sydney 2024
    Photograph: Alannah Le Cross | 'The Koreri Transformation' (2024) by Udeido Collective at UNSW Galleries
  4.  'At Home with the Locust People' (1975) by Bonita Ely at AGNSW - Biennale of Sydney 2024
    Photograph: Alannah le Cross | 'At Home with the Locust People' (1975) by Bonita Ely at AGNSW

Time Out says

The revitalised White Bay Power Station is in the spotlight as Sydney's epic contemporary art festival celebrates 50 years

Are you ready to chase artistic escapades around the city? The Biennale of Sydney is back for its 24th edition from March 9 to June 10, 2024. Whether you’re a dedicated arts fanatic or a casual culture buff, you’ll find something to inspire and provoke you along this epic art trail. The largest contemporary art event of its kind in Australia, the Biennale is taking over six different locations with awe-inspiring installations and intriguing exhibitions. Titled Ten Thousand Suns, this year the festival explores a multiplicity of global cultures, taking on a transgressive spirit as it leans into the origins of Carnivale. As always, the Biennale is free for everyone to visit for a total of 16 weeks.  

Of all the locations, White Bay Power Station is absolutely the main character of the Biennale’s 50th year anniversary (and 24th iteration – it takes place every second year). This is the first time the revitalised industrial site will officially open its doors to the public in more than 100 years – and what they’ve accomplished is pretty spectacular. Years of accumulated pigeon poop has been cleared out of the enormous factory spaces, making way for art installations that tower multiple storeys high, and more works hidden in various nooks and crannies. Pop-up bars and brand new bathrooms also set the stage for a packed program of live performances and music curated by Phoenix Central Park. Think of White Bay as a replacement for the role that Cockatoo Island has played in Sydney’s previous Biennales (it looks like Carriageworks has a new competitive contender for the title of Sydney’s coolest post-industrial multi-arts venue). 

Overseeing the comings and goings at White Bay Power Station is a huge, newly-commissioned painting by artist Dylan Mooney. With a high-impact art style awash in saturated colours, Mooney has drawn on his experiences as a Queer Indigenous man to pay tribute to Aboriginal dancer and activist Malcolm Cole in the iconic Captain Cook drag costume he wore in the 1988 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, the year of Australia’s Bicentenary (look out for more references to this cultural moment throughout the Biennale – including in images from the legendary photographer William Yang). Explore further into the belly of the factory and you’ll find the head of a giant blue deity hanging from the rafters, people dressed as human-sized foxes making mischief in domestic debris, and many more weird and wonderful sights. 

This year the Biennale is also spreading across the Art Gallery of NSW’s (AGNSW) original South Building, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), the newly revamped Artspace Gallery in Woolloomooloo, and UNSW Galleries in Paddington, which it returns to after a decade-long hiatus. For the first time, the Biennale is also heading to the stunning Chau Chak Wing Museum – opened in late 2020, this purpose-built institution thoughtfully showcases art, science and history collections from USYD’s archives.

Under the curatorship of Romanian-born Cosmin Costinaș and Colombian-born Inti Guerrero (the prolific pair are constant collaborators) this edition of the Biennale features a total of 88 artists and collectives from 47 countries. A somewhat mind-boggling multitude of themes are woven into the fabric of the Biennale, yet there is a holistic and enriching feel to the resulting tapestry. Drawing on multiple histories and perspectives, the curators platform the resurgence of First Nations technologies and knowledges, and challenge Western fatalistic constructions of the apocalypse. Costinaș and Guerrero propose the act of celebration (think parties, costumes and carnivals) as a method and a source of joy, inspired by legacies of collective resistance and marginalised groups (like Queer and POC communities) who have come together to thrive in the face of injustice.

We were lucky enough to have the chance to race around all six locations in one day before the Biennale opened to the public, and we can attest that there’s a lot of magic to discover. However, we reckon the best way to tackle this marathon of art is gradually. You could peruse one or two exhibition locations in a single day and your brain will still be overflowing from everything you’ve taken in. If you can’t make it to every venue, White Bay Power Station is absolutely the one not to miss (see if you can double up your visit with one of the programmed gigs or parties). Happy hunting, art lovers! 


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Alannah Le Cross
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Alannah Le Cross


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