The Art Gallery of New South Wales, which overlooks Sydney Harbour, will open in December what is being called the Sydney Modern Project. The huge architectural expansion project is historic; it will be the Australian city’s biggest cultural development since the Sydney Opera House was established nearly half a century ago.
“When we open on December 3, visitors will experience art throughout our campus, indoors and outdoors, from inaugural installations in our new building to fully relocated galleries in our existing buildings,” says Maud Page, who worked as Deputy Director and director of collections at the museum since 2017. She was previously director of collections at the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, where she was instrumental in launching the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. . In doing so, Page, who was born in Paris, has established herself as one of the world’s leading curators of Indigenous, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
Such cultures can teach Australian society a lot, says Page: “We live through pandemics, wildfires, earthquakes and we have to act differently. Indigenous knowledge can show us another way. But how do we change, structurally, to receive this information? »
The Sydney Modern Project cost $344 million, including $244 million in government funding and $100 million in private donations. The new museum has almost doubled the exhibition area of its predecessor, from 9,000 m² to 16,000 m², thanks to the architectural designs of the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Sanaa, led by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. A new public garden dotted with new sculptures, and designed by Kathryn Gustafson and McGregor Coxal, will adjoin the new museum.
The expansion has led to a complete reassessment of the museum’s collection of 36,000 objects, which includes 2,000 works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. These historically neglected works were brought to the fore by Page, while contemporary indigenous artists were invited to respond to the expansion; a new work by Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, for example, will now adorn the facade of the original building. To see or not to see commentaries on patriarchy and colonial history through a series of hooded characters. “We wanted Karla to fill that space and bring a female artist back to the fore,” says Page.
In the Yiribana Gallery, a monumental installation by Wiradjuri artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey will explore how some indigenous peoples managed to lead nomadic lives. “It’s about bringing a customary practice from south-east Australia into the contemporary world,” says Page. “We are not interested in large, large and shiny works, but rather in art that reveals the quality of humanity. Thinking about what Indigenous knowledge means is what makes us different.