The Art Gallery of NSW, Museum of Contemporary Art and Carriageworks launch The National: New Australian Art.

The past 12 months has felt like a year of incessant decline for Australian arts. The Federal funding fiasco, galling MYEFO cuts, and startling blows to major institutions like the Melbourne Art Fair and Adelaide Festival have made pessimists of almost all of us, so it’s hugely welcome news that three of Sydney’s top cultural locations have joined forces to hatch a new biennial festival celebrating contemporary Australian art.

The Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the ever impressive Carriageworks will present The National: New Australia Art from 2017, with a commitment to stage the event in 2019 and 2021. As its name suggests, the exhibition will feature only contemporary Australian art, with events planned across all three institutions. Perhaps the most inspired aspect of the newly announced event is that it will dovetail with the Sydney Biennale, occuring on alternating years. This means that Sydney will now have one major visual art festival annually, and what’s more, the exhibitions will be completely free.

Launched today at Sydney Central Train Station – the main travel hub equidistant from the three venues – MCA Director Liz Ann Macgregor, AGNSW Director Michael Brand, and Carriageworks Director Lisa Havilah were tight-lipped about the finances of the new festival, but confirmed that they were in talks with sponsors, government funding bodies and foundations to underwrite the costs. 

The curators for the first National, which will open on March 30, 2017, and run until June, are Anneke Jaspers, the Curator of Contemporary Art at AGNSW, Wayne Tunnicliffe, Head Curator of Australian Art as AGNSW, Nina Miall, Curator at Carriageworks and Blair French, Curatorial and Digital Curator at the MCA.

Good news comes in threes, so the proverb says, and given the announcement this week that Melbourne will receive $115 million cash injection into the arts and culture sector, the Limelight team will be keeping their fingers crossed for one more good news story, to banish the blues of the past year.