Season Preview 2020

The Art Gallery of New South Wales has announced its program for 2020, which includes a major Matisse exhibition called Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris for its 2020-2021 summer exhibition as part of the Sydney International Art Series.

Established in 2010, the Sydney International Art Series has become a major event on the Sydney calendar with summer exhibitions at both the AGNSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, which in 2002-2021 will present the first major survey in Australia of American artist Doug Aitken.

Running from November 2020 to March 2021, Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris will present over 100 works spanning six decades of the career of one of the world’s most popular, innovative and influential artists.

MatisseHenri Matisse, The sorrow of the king (La tristesse du roi), 1952, gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on canvas, Centre Pompidou. Musée national d’art moderne.  Photo © Philippe Migeat – Centre Pompidou

The Sydney-exclusive exhibition – which was five years in development and represents the largest collection of Matisse masterworks ever to be exhibited in the Emerald City – was developed in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which holds what AGNSW Director Michael Brand describes as “an unparalleled collection of works by the artist”.

Reaching from his early adventures in colour as a Fauvist through to the serene and distilled designs for his chapel in Vence, the exhibition features drawings, sculptures and a compelling presentation of his triumphant cut-outs, revealing how the French artist renewed his vision time and again across his long career, seeking new ways of celebrating the seen world and expressing the energy he felt in it.

Highlights include the exceptionally important early work Le Luxe I 1907; the mid-career masterpiece Decorative figure on an ornamental ground 1925; and the majestic self-portrait, The sorrow of the king 1952, one of the largest of the famous cut-outs that the artist created in his late career.

The Matisse exhibition will be accompanied by a free event called Matisse Alive, in which four artists – Nina Chanel Abney (USA), Sally Smart (Australia), Angela Tiatia (Samoa/New Zealand/Australia) and Robin White (New Zealand) – will present solo exhibitions in response to the art of Matisse.

Construction for Sydney Modern, the AGNSW’s expansion project, will begin on November 8, 2019, with the first breaking of the ground happening the day before – seven years from the initial masterplan. Announcing the gallery’s program for 2020, Brand said that the advent of Sydney Modern Project has made everyone at the gallery think about what sort of museum they want the AGNSW to be, and what perspective and focus they will take in future to ensure that they provide an inspiring experience for visitors.

The AGNSW is currently installing this year’s summer exhibition, Japan Supernatural, which opens on November 2, 2019 and runs until March 8, 2020. The blockbuster show explores three centuries of folklore and fantasy in Japanese art. Displaying more than 180 works from artists including historical master Katsushika Hokusai and contemporary superstar Takashi Murakami, it features a wild array of exotic, mysterious and strange creatures from fiendish goblins to weird and wonderful shapeshifters.

Quilty, the first major survey of Australian artist Ben Quilty, which premiered at the Art Gallery of South Australia, arrives at the AGNSW on November 9 where it plays until February 2, 2020.

The rest of the 2020 program has a strong Australian focus and draws on the AGNSW’s own collection. A large-scale retrospective will explore the work of Arthur Streeton from the 1880s to the 1930s, taking a fresh look at the much-loved works. Brand said that the AGNSW bought its first Streeton painting when the artist was just 22. Streeton, which opens in September 2020, will feature over 150 work from public and private collections including some pieces not exhibited for over 100 years.

In June, the AGNSW will present the first dedicated retrospective of sculptor Margel Hinder who was born in the US in 1906 but migrated to Australia in 1934. In July, an exhibition called John Brack, the austere everyday will draw on the gallery’s collection of the artist’s paintings, prints and drawings from across the career or the major postwar Australian modernist.

Other exhibitions include Classicism, which presents an eclectic selection of 19th and 20th century works from the gallery’s own collection, and Under the Stars, which will explore stargazing and mapping by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.

The ever-popular Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes will return in May and run until September. The AGNSW will also participate in the 2020 Biennale of Sydney, led by Artistic Director Brook Andrew which opens in March and which will be a First Nations-led exhibition of contemporary art connecting local communities and global networks.


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