The Art Gallery of New South Wales Is Bringing a Huge Alphonse Mucha Exhibition to Australia

AGNSW's exclusive winter showcase will focus on the  Czech-born artist — and it has unveiled the rest of its 2024 lineup, too.
Sarah Ward
February 20, 2024

When French stage actor Sarah Bernhardt performed in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, posters helped spread the word. The art that featured is as famous as the star herself. Responsible for the designs: Czech-born painter and illustrator Alphonse Mucha, who is virtually synonymous with Paris in the art nouveau period as a result. He's also the subject of the Art Gallery of New South Wales' huge 2024 winter showcase.

AGNSW has unveiled its program for the year ahead, and its biggest-name exhibition is impressive. It'll also be exclusive to Sydney. Running from Saturday, June 15–Sunday, September 22, Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau will be the most-comprehensive showcase of the artist's work that Australia has ever seen, in fact. Posters for Bernhardt and others will feature, alongside illustrations, photographs, jewellery and interior decoration.

Surveying Mucha's five-decade career, created in collaboration with the Mucha Foundation in Prague and featuring pieces from the Mucha Family Collection, Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau will also include a digital component. There, his painting cycle The Slav Epic from 1912–26 will get the immersive treatment.

Alphonse Mucha 'Reverie' 1898, colour lithograph, 72.7 x 55.2 cm © Mucha Trust 2024 // Alphonse Mucha 'The Seasons: Summer' 1896, colour lithograph, 103 x 54 cm © Mucha Trust 2024. // Alphonse Mucha 'Princess Hyacinth' 1911, colour lithograph 125.5 x 83.5 cm © Mucha Trust 2024

"Thanks to the close and generous collaboration with the Mucha Foundation in Prague, this extensive exhibition brings many of Alphonse Mucha's exceptionally important works to Sydney, revealing an artist and designer whose powerful influence remains with us today, some 85 years after his death," said Art Gallery of New South Wales Director Michael Brand, announcing the exhibition.

"Mucha was a prolific and versatile artist whose work spanned many areas of design, from the iconic theatrical posters that made his name, to design and advertising, to jewellery, sculpture and interior design, book illustration and, of course, painting."

"As an artist, activist and philosopher, Mucha moved beyond art nouveau in his search for an art to elevate the human spirit, coming to focus attention on the socio-historical issues affecting the Slavic peoples then under the domination of the Austro-Hungarian Empire," Brand continued.

Lesley Dumbrell 'Solstice' 1974, Liquitex on canvas, 173 x 296 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Patrick White Bequest 2019 © Lesley Dumbrell.

Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau sits on AGNSW's 2024 lineup alongside a wealth of other reasons to hit the Sydney gallery. The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes will be back, of course, displaying across winter as well. The Volume festival, which debuted in 2023, will also return — albeit with dates and details to be confirmed. And the site is a venue for the 24th Biennale of Sydney from March–June, too.

The abstract art of Australian talent Lesley Dumbrell, paintings and sculptures by South Korea's Lee Ufan and stepping into Wendy Sharpe's creative process are among the other highlights, from a list that goes on. One particular must-see: What Does the Jukebox Dream Of?, where the gallery will go big on defunct media — complete with Susan Hiller's large-scale installation Die gedanken sind frei (Thoughts are free), a customised Wurlitzer jukebox, which will hit Australia for the first time and play 100-plus anthems spanning centuries.

Susan Hiller 'Die gedanken sind frei (Thoughts are free)' 2012, 102 songs on customised Wurlitzer walnut jukebox, vinyl lettering, books, benches, sound, overall display dimensions variable, Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of Geoff Ainsworth AM and Johanna Featherstone 2017 © Estate of Susan Hiller, courtesy Lisson Gallery, photo: Jack Hems.

Art Gallery of New South Wales' 2024 Exhibitions and Events:

Until Sunday, March 10 — Kandinsky and Georgiana Houghton: Invisible Friends  
Until Sunday,  April 28 — Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day? 
Until Sunday, April 21 — ARTEXPRESS 2024
Saturday, March 9–Monday, June 10 — 24th Biennale of Sydney: Ten Thousand Suns
Saturday, March 9–Sunday, September 22 — What Does the Jukebox Dream Of? 
Saturday, March 9–Sunday, June 2 — Jelena Telecki: Mothers, Fathers
Saturday, May 25–Sunday, August 11 — Wendy Sharpe: Spellbound
Saturday, June 8–Sunday, September 8 — Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes 2024
Saturday, June 15–Sunday, September 22 — Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau
Saturday, June 22–Monday, October 7 — Emily Hunt
Saturday, July 30–Sunday, October 24 — Lesley Dumbrell: Thrum   
Saturday, August 31–September 2024 — Lee Ufan
Saturday, September 14–Sunday, January 12 — Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2024
Saturday, September 21–mid 2025 — Angelica Mesiti: The Rites of When 
Saturday, November 2–Sunday, February 16 — Leyla Stevens
Saturday, November 9–Sunday, February 9 — Nusra Latif Qureshi
TBC — Volume 2024

Sampa the Great performing at the 2023 Volume Festival at the Art Gallery of NSW, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Daniel Boud.

For more information about the Art Gallery of New South Wales' 2024 exhibitions — all of which will occur at The Domain, Sydney — visit the venue's website.

Top image: excerpt of Alphonse Mucha 'Reverie' 1898, colour lithograph, 72.7 x 55.2 cm © Mucha Trust 2024 // Alphonse Mucha 'The Seasons: Summer' 1896, colour lithograph, 103 x 54 cm © Mucha Trust 2024. // Alphonse Mucha 'Princess Hyacinth' 1911, colour lithograph 125.5 x 83.5 cm © Mucha Trust 2024

Published on February 20, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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