A work inspired by Dimitri Shostakovich’s opera The Nose will form the centrepiece of a solo exhibition by South African artist William Kentridge – one of the highlights of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s exhibition programme for 2018.

Art Gallery New South WalesWilliam Kentridge I am not me, the horse is not mine 2008, installation view at Cockatoo Island for the 16th Biennale of Sydney © William Kentridge. Courtesy the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris; Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg; and Annandale Galleries, Sydney

Entitled I am not me, the horse is not mine, the work has been gifted to the AGNSW by Anita and Luca Belgiorno-Nettis. Originally created for the 2008 Sydney Biennale, where it was performed on Cockatoo Island, it is an immersive, eight-screen video installation combining narration, projection and a vocal and instrumental soundtrack.

Kentridge, who is known for his stop-motion videos of charcoal drawings, created I am not me, the horse is not mine while preparing to design and direct his acclaimed production of Shostakovich’s opera (which is based on Nikolai Gogol’s absurdist short story) for the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2010, where it was revived in 2013. I am not me, the horse is not mine will be exhibited alongside a series of related works by Kentridge at the AGNSW from September 8.

Before the exhibition opens, Australian audiences will be able to see Barrie Kosky’s production of The Nose when Opera Australiastages it early next year.

Announcing the Gallery’s 2018 programme today, with a team of his curators, AGNSW Director Michael Brand said that visitation to the Gallery in 2017 has exceeded 1.4 million, or 1.5 million if you include the Brett Whiteley Studio and touring exhibitions – which is higher even than in 2012 when the Gallery presented its hugely popular Picasso exhibition.

The two major exhibitions currently on show at the Gallery, Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age: masterpieces from the Rjiksmuseum and Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium, are both drawing big crowds and will run into early 2018.

Art Gallery New South Wales

Taste c1500 from the series The lady and the unicorn, Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, Photo © RMN-GP / Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge / M Urtado

In February, the AGNSW will present The lady and the unicorn, a medieval tapestry series from France, where it is revered as a national treasure. The 15th-century work has been dubbed the ‘Mona Lisa of the Middle Ages’ and features six tapestries extending 20 metres, each featuring the unnamed lady flanked by a lion and a unicorn. The tapestries, which were intricately woven in Flanders from wool and silk, feature allegorical representations of the five senses, while the final one called À mon seul désir is more mysterious. The tapestries have only ever left France on three previous occasions and will make their exclusive Autralian appearance at the AGNSW thanks to a special loan from the collection of the Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris. Brand said today that this could well be the last time they travel outside of France. Harry Potter fans might recognise them, as replicas of the tapestries were hung on the walls of Gryffindor Tower in the Harry Potter films.

Art Gallery New South Wales

John Peter Russell, In the afternoon, 1891, Art Gallery of NSW, purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2016. Photograph © AGNSW Mim Stirling

In July, John Russell: Australia’s French impressionist opens. The Australian painter (1858 – 1930) lived in Paris for much of his career, where he participated in French late 19th-century avant-garde art movements. He was a close friend of Van Gogh and Rodine, dined with Monet, and taught impressionist colour theory to Matisse, yet he remains little known. This major survey presents artwork from across his career and includes a portrait he painted of Van Gogh.

Brett Whitely: Drawing is everything opens in December 2018 and explores Whiteley’s incredible skill as a draughtsman. This is the first major exhibition to focus on the central place of drawing in his work, with drawings ranging from early abstract landscapes to lyrical interiors to sinuous nudes.

The Gallery’s major summer exhibition for 2018 – 2019 will be announced in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sydney International Art Series in early 2018.

The 2018 programme also includes solo exhibitions by five female artists: Janet Laurence: The matter of the masters which was created in resonse to Rembrandt and the golden age, runs until February 18; Ewa Pachhucka’s installation Arcadia: landscape and bodies, which features rock forms and nude female figures crocheted from natural and synthetic fibres; an exhibition of 18 ceramics by Australian modernist painter and potter Anne Dangar; prints, bark paintings and larrakitj (hollow logs) by leading Aboriginal artist Nonggirrnga Marawili; and an exhibition of paintings, works on paper, prints and sculptures by Indigenous artist Judy Watson.

Art Gallery New South WalesEwa Pachucka, Arcadia: Landscape and bodies, 1972–77 (detail), Art Gallery of NSW, Gift of Rudy Komon Art Gallery 1978. Photograph © Ewa Pachucka

There is also an exhibition dedicated to Tony Tuckson (1921 – 73), one of Australia’s earliest and most influential abstract expressionist artists. He was Deputy Director of the AGNSW, during which time he kept his art practice secret, painting quietly afterhours. The exhibition will include over 80 paintings and works on paper from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

The ever-popular Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes will be back, of course, but in May rather than July. ARTEXPRESSreturns to the AGNSW in January, the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2018 will be held there between July and October, and the Gallery will be one of eight participating venues in the 21st Biennale of Sydney (March 16 – June 11).

Meanwhile, construction of Sydney Modern is expected to begin in January 2019, with the new AGNSW extension scheduled for completion in late 2021 to coincide with the Gallery’s 150th anniversary.