The Sydney Biennale looks to have its finger on the pulse with its 45th anniversary programme next year, exploring stories of migration and the complexity of diasporic identities. Showcasing the work of 70 artists across seven venues, the free contemporary art festival will take over the city from March with Superposition: Equilibrium & Engagement.

“The artists in the 21st Biennale of Sydney have been chosen to offer a panoramic view of how opposing interpretations can come together in a state of equilibrium”, said newly appointed Artistic Director Mami Kataoka. “The history of the people of Sydney collectively reflects the history of the world in the 20th century, in particular the movements and migration of people and cultures away from conflict. My hope is that the artworks in this Biennale will serve as a catalyst for thought for all of us”.

Sydney BiennaleMami Kataoka. Photograph: Daniel Boud.

As announced in April, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is 2018’s major drawcard. His inclusion in the Biennale follows his double-bill exhibition alongside the works of Andy Warhol at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2016, the highest selling event in the gallery’s history. He will give the Biennale’s keynote address, while his new feature-length film Human Flow will play at the Sydney Opera House, an exploration of the global refugee crisis filmed over the course of a year in 23 countries. Meanwhile, Cockatoo Island will showcase his 60-metre inflatable boat installation, Law of the Journey, made from the same rubber used to manufacture the vessels that transport asylum seekers from Turkey to Greece. Finally, his artwork Crystal Ball, a large glass sphere that draws attention to our current global humanitarian crisis, will be on display in Woolloomooloo’s Artspace.

Sydney BiennaleAi Weiwei, Law of the Journey, 2017. Photograph: Ai Weiwei Studio. 

Other highlights of the programme include paintings by Wathaurung elder Marlene Gilson, which explore the involvement of Indigenous peoples in significant historical events such as the 1854 Eureka Stockade. Belgian artist Michaël Borremans is also one to catch – acclaimed for his arresting portraits inspired by Degas and Manet, he brings a series of intimate video works, paintings and drawings to Artspace.

Sydney BiennaleMarlene Gilson, Melbourne Cup2016. Synthetic polymer on linen, 76 x 100cm. Courtesy of the artist. Collection of National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Photograph: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. 

2018 also marks the centenary of Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon’s birth. Marking the occasion, Lebanese artist Rayyane Tabet has created a performance reflecting on Utzon’s architectural and design practice, while British artist Oliver Beer brings a new iteration of his ongoing Resonance Project to the Opera House, exploring the complex relationship between sound and space.

Sydney BiennaleMichaël Borremans, The Bread, 2012. Video still, 46 x 38cm, framed LCD screen, HD video, continuous loop, 4 mins (approx.) Courtesy of the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp.

Other hot tickets at the 2018 Sydney Biennale include a video work by Geng Xue, an evocation of the dialogue between artist and creation; an embroidered textile map delineating the patterns of diaspora by Tiffany Chung; and a collaborative work on the history of the recently demolished White Building in Phnom Penh.


The Sydney Biennale runs from March 16 – June 11 2018.

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