Melbourne’s new arts festival, a merging of White Night and the Melbourne International Arts Festival that will kick off in 2020, has announced its inaugural artistic directors: artist, curator and festival director Hannah Fox and director and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek.

Melbourne FestivalHannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek. Photo: supplied.

“After a global search, we are thrilled to have two internationally admired and respected artistic leaders guiding our vision for Melbourne’s new cultural festival and major event. That Hannah and Gideon are both Melburnians emphasises our city’s incredible contribution to culture,” said Tim Orton, Chair of Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Fox comes from her role as Associate Creative Director for Hobart’s Dark Mofo. She has a background in art, large-scale public art, contemporary music and live art, and as co-director of the company Supple Fox, curated the contemporary music program at the Melbourne International Arts Festival from 2009 to 2012.

Her large-scale sonic artwork Siren Song – which uses hundreds of skyscraper-mounted speakers and a helicopter sound system – marked the sunrise and sunset for 10 days of Dark Mofo in 2017 and travelled to the Perth Festival in 2018.

“We are honoured to have the opportunity to rethink what a festival can be in a major city and especially this city,” Fox said. “Gideon and I share the mission to make a festival that marks each passing year with a large-scale ceremony specific to Melbourne, bringing people out of their homes and into proximity to each other to experience art that really shifts the status quo, even for a fleeting moment.”

Obarzanek, who founded the dance company Chunky Move in 1995 – and was CEO and Artistic Director until 2012 – was Artistic Associate with the Melbourne International Arts Festival from 2015 to 2017, and his recent work with Brian Lipson (and choreographed by Lucy Guerin) Two Jews Walk Into a Theatre… played at the 2017 Melbourne International Arts Festival before travelling to the Adelaide Festival in 2019.

“Melbourne’s new festival will be the crucible for diverse histories, communities and ideas to come together and define what it means to be in the here and now,” Obarzanek said. “I am thrilled to be working with Hannah and the rest of the team to create this extraordinary event that will both reflect and inspire this unique city.”

Fox and Obarzanek join Executive Director Kath Mainland on the new festival, which will run August 20 to September 6, 2020. Further details, including the name of the festival, are slated to be announced later this year.