NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin today announced the two major summer exhitions coming to Sydney in October as part of the 2018/19 Sydney International Art Series. The Art Gallery of New South Wales will host an exhibition called Modern masters from the Hermitage, which showcases 65 paintings by artists including Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Cézanne and Malevich. Meanwhile, the Museum of Contemporary Art will show a major retrospective by South African photographer David Goldblatt.

Sydney International Art SeriesClaude Monet, Poppy Fields, c 180. Photograph © The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Art Gallery of NSW Director Michael Brand, who has been a member of the International Advisory Board of the State Hermitage Musuem in St Petersburg since it was created in 1994, said that highlights of the exhibition from the Hermitage included Cézanne’s Great pine near Aix, Picasso’s Woman with a fan, Gauguin’s Month of Mary, Matisse’s Nymph and Satyr, Kandinsky’s Landscape and Malevich’s Black Square.

“An era of extraordinary change in the early 20th century saw modernists throughout Europe freeing themsleves from tradition and imagining life in new ways. The work of these pioneers still resonates today,” said Dr Brand.

David Goldblatt is the grandson of Lithuanian-Jewish migrants, who left Europe for South Africa in the 1890s to escape religious persecution. Born in Randfontein in 1930, Goldblatt lives and works in Johannesburg. He took his first black-and-white photographs in 1948, and following the death of his father in 1962, sold the family clothing business and turned full-time to photography.

Over the next 30 years he documented the people and places, industry and landscape of South Africa under apartheid – a political system founded on racial segregation and persecution of black South Africans under white minority rule – and after 1991, its dismantling and legacy.

Post-Apartheid, he began to introduce colour to his work, with his colour prints often displayed as large diptychs and triptychs. The exhibition will feature some of his portraits, landscapes, architectural photographs and series related to crime and HIV.

Sydney International Art SeriesDavid Goldblatt, Hold-up in Hillbrow, Johannesburg

“Visitors will discover an extraordinary artist whose documentary eye has not strayed from the complexities of his country of birth, but resonates with other global histories (including Australia’s) through striking and memorable photographs,” said MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, who described Goldblatt as “a living legend of photography”.

Speaking at today’s launch, MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent, revealed that when Goldblatt was approached about the exhibition, he said he would only agree if she went to South Africa to do a road trip around the country with him – which she duly did, and which clearly proved an inspirational experience.

Announcing the Australia-exclusive exhibitions, Harwin said: “The Sydney International Art Series is a major visitor drawcard for our State. Since its inception in 2010, the annual exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia have generated more than $134 million in overnight visitor expenditure for NSW and attracted more than 1.8 million attendees.”

The two exhibitions in the 2017/18 Sydney International Art Series – Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age, Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum at the AGNSW and Pipilotti Rist, Sip my Ocean at the MCA – attracted 130,000 and 110,000 visitors respectively.

Modern masters from the Hermitage is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, October 13 2018 – March 3, 2019. David Goldblatt is at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, October 19 2018 – March 3, 2019