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Artist Yayoi Kusama wears red bob wig, yellow spotted garments and sits against a patterned red and black background
Photograph: Supplied/Ota Fine Arts

The Art Gallery of NSW teases major new artworks ahead of transformative expansion

Opening later this year and including work by Yayoi Kusama, the Sydney Modern Project will almost double the size of the gallery

Alannah Maher
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Alannah Maher
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From artworks that share Indigenous knowledge to fantastical bronze figures of a super-human scale, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has just announced the nine leading Australian and international artists commissioned to create major new works for its transformed art museum campus, which is due to open later this year.

The Art Gallery’s transformation, known as the Sydney Modern Project, will be one of the most ambitious cultural landmarks to open in Australia since the Sydney Opera House almost 50 years ago.

The artists involved work across a wide variety of media and are currently making their site-specific and multi-sensory commissions – many at a scale never before possible at the Art Gallery – in studios, workshops and foundries in Australia and around the world.

The new commissions include an exuberant floral sculpture inspired by an endemic plant of south-eastern Australia by Tokyo-based artist Yayoi Kusama, made famous for her use of polka dots and ‘infinity rooms’, that will be visible day and night, prominently positioned on the new building’s terrace overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay. In the niche above the gallery’s front door, left empty by the cancellation of the original 1913 commission by Dora Ohlfsen, a new sculpture by Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens will explore the continuing legacies of colonialism and patriarchy.

 Artists' impression of the Sydney Modern Project from AGNSWPhotograph: AGNSW | Artists' impression of the Sydney Modern Project from AGNSW

The other just-announced artists commissioned as part of the Sydney Modern Project are Waradgerie (Wiradjuri) artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Sydney artist Simryn Gill, Wiradyuri and Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, Melbourne artist Richard Lewer, Taiwanese–American artist Lee Mingwei, Māori artist Lisa Reihana and New Zealand–born, London-based artist Francis Upritchard.

The project is creating a new art museum campus comprising a spectacular new building designed by SANAA, headed by Pritzker Prize–winning architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, a revitalised historic building and public art garden. It seeks to connect people through a seamless relationship between great art, architecture and landscape in a magnificent location overlooking Sydney Harbour. Displayed both indoors and outdoors within and between the Art Gallery’s two buildings, the major new works will speak of what art has been and what it is becoming.

The Art Gallery will announce  further commissions and acquisitions in the coming months, ahead of the scheduled opening of the Sydney Modern Project later this year, which will almost double the gallery’s exhibition space and includes a swish new forecourt with reflection pools. In the meantime, the gallery remains open to the public. 

Want to see world class art now? Check out our insider’s guide to the Biennale of Sydney.

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