The 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art has achieved record attendances under curator Erica Green. Titled Divided Worlds, it welcomed more than 240,000 people over a 93-day season, up 10 percent on the previous Biennial in 2016. The Museum of Economic Botany, one of the Biennial’s venues, also saw its highest attendances on record with a display of photographic works by Tamara Dean, called In Our Nature.

Tamara Dean, Elephant ear (Alocasia odora) in Autumn from the series In our nature, April 2017, Adelaide Botanic Garden, pure pigment print on cotton rag, 150 x 200 cm; Courtesy the artist and Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney.

“As an across-city experience the Adelaide Biennial clearly resonated with a broad audience,” said Art Gallery of South Australia Co-Acting Director Lisa Slade. “We are thrilled that our partners can work with us to grow audiences for art and that the North Terrace boulevard can be a platform for presenting the best in Australian art.”

Slade attributes strong attendance figures to the Biennial’s accessibility and visibility across South Australia, and its reputation as a platform for Australian contemporary artists to exhibit works of scale and ambition.

Six works of art from the Biennial, collectively valued at over $690,000, have been acquired into the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection. Among these is Lindy Lee’s The Life of Stars, a mirrored, seven-metre high sculpture acquired to honour the achievements of former AGSA Director Nick Mitzevich.

The Ken Family’s Kangkura-KangkuraKu Tjukurpa – A Sister’s Story has also been acquired, a triptych that represents a rare collaborative painting by all five sisters and their mother. It is also the first painting by the Ken Family to enter the Gallery’s collection.

Detail: Freda Brady, Sandra Ken, Tjungkara Ken, Paniny Mick, Maringka Tunkin, Yaritji Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, Kangkura-KangkuraKu Tjukurpa – A Sister’s Story, 2017, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 3 panels each 300 x 200 cm; Courtesy the artists and Tjala Arts 2017.

Lisa Adams’ hyper-real figurative painting, which draws on historical depictions of early anatomical dissections, has also been acquired. Titled Inquisition, Adams says that it portrays, “three surgeons performing investigative surgery (on an angel) in an attempt to discover what purity might look like, in order to improve the behaviour of humanity”.

Lisa Adams, Inquisition, 2016, oil on canvas, 54 x 80 cm; Courtesy the artist and Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane, photo: Jon Linkins.

Three photographs from Dean’s In Our Nature have been snapped up by the Gallery as well – Elephant ear (Alocasia odora), Sacred lotus (nelumbo nucifera) and Passage, willow forest (Salix). Dean’s site-specific suite of photographs explores our primal connection with nature, depicting figures situated in natural landscapes to highlight their similarities.

Leigh Robb. Photo: supplied

It has also been announced that Leigh Robb, Curator of Contemporary Art at AGSA, will curate the 2020 Biennial. “Appointed the Art Gallery’s inaugural Curator of Contemporary Art in 2016, Leigh has extensive knowledge of both Australian and international contemporary art. With a host of major exhibitions, contemporary commissions and publications to her name, Robb’s approach will be characterised by both energy and ambition,” said Slade.


Read our preview of the 2018 Adelaide Biennial here