Melbourne on the global art map with Australia’s newest triennial

The National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, has announced a new triennial for contemporary art and design, beginning in 2017.

The NGV Triennial was announced by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) on 18 March 2014. Slated to be an ambitious initiative celebrating the best of contemporary international art and design, the triennial seeks to put Melbourne on the global art map.

Marco Fusinato, 'Aetheric plexus (Broken X)', 2013, alloy tubing, lights, double couplers, Lanbox LCM DMX controller, dimmer rack, DMX MP3 player, powered speaker, sensor, extension leads, shot bags, 880.0 x 410.0 x 230.0 cm. Image courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Sydney.

Marco Fusinato, ‘Aetheric plexus (Broken X)’, 2013, alloy tubing, lights, double couplers, Lanbox LCM DMX controller, dimmer rack, DMX MP3 player, powered speaker, sensor, extension leads, shot bags, 880.0 x 410.0 x 230.0 cm. Image courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Sydney.

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) said on their blog that the event would begin in the summer of 2017 and recur every three years. The Triennial will have a multidisciplinary focus, featuring contemporary art, architecture, design, film, performance and other cultural practices. It will be curated internally with support from external partners.

NGV Director Tony Ellwood said in a press release:

We will draw on the finest talents and the most interesting ideas to bring this event to life. We are thrilled to be making this announcement and very inspired by this opportunity to present newly commissioned work by practitioners unfamiliar to Australian audiences, alongside well-known, significant figures in contemporary art, design and creative fields.

The NGV also announced a dedicated fund and a Campaign for Contemporary Art to attract investors for the museum’s contemporary art programmes and events. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the fund will include “bequests, individual donations as well as corporate contributions.

Sydney in trouble? 

The announcement of the NGV Triennial may signify a shift in the power balance between Australia’s two main art cities, as Sydney battles ongoing fall-out from the controversial 2014 Biennale. 

Following weeks of controversy over its corporate sponsor Transfield, which is involved in running detention centres for the Australian government, the Biennale of Sydney faces an uncertain future. Many artists, activists and academics called for immediate action, with 41 artists signing an open letter and 11 artists withdrawing their participation from the 19th Biennale of Sydney (21 March to 9 June 2014).

As a result, the Biennale’s Founding Governor Luca Belgiono-Nettis stepped down and the Biennale parted ways with Transfield. In the absence of its main sponsor, it remains to be seen whether the event will garner enough funding to continue on the scale that it has so far done.

NOT FOR REUSE. Philip Beesley, 'Hylozoic Series: Sibyl', 2012, installation view of the 18th Biennale of Sydney at Cockatoo Island. Photograph by Prudence Upton/Destination NSW. Image courtesy Biennale of Sydney.

Philip Beesley, ‘Hylozoic Series: Sibyl’, 2012, installation view at the 18th Biennale of Sydney at Cockatoo Island. Photograph by Prudence Upton/Destination NSW. Image courtesy Biennale of Sydney.

The first biennale to be established in the Asia-Pacific region, the Biennale of Sydney has been unparalleled in its status as Australia’s largest contemporary visual arts festival since its inception in 1973. However, in light of these new developments and its financial uncertainty, the announcement of the ambitious NGV Triennial provides a promising new platform for artists and may prove to be Melbourne’s competition to Sydney.

Melbourne’s art scene

NGV is Australia’s oldest public art gallery, founded in 1861. From 22 November 2013 until 23 March 2014, NGV held an exhibition of “the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice” entitled “Melbourne Now”. Tony Ellwood said that the exhibition had been the museum’s “most ambitious exhibition” to date, acquiring more than 100 works of art for the museum’s collection and attracting over 700,000 visitors.

Other important contemporary art events in Melbourne include the Melbourne Art Fair, Australasia’s leading contemporary art event, scheduled to be held from 13 to 17 August 2014 as the centre-point of the Melbourne Art Week. The Art Week will also include exhibitions, education programmes and other satellite events taking place from 11 to 17 August 2014.

Kriti Bajaj

Related Topics: Australian artists, triennials, events in Melbourne

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