Now Open: A Stunning Alphonse Mucha Exhibition Is Filling the Art Gallery of New South Wales with Art Nouveau Works

More than 200 pieces from the  Czech-born artist have hit Australia as part of the most-comprehensive showcase of his work that the country has ever seen.
Sarah Ward
Published on June 17, 2024

At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2024 started with Kandinsky and Louise Bourgeois exhibitions, all carrying over from 2023. Now that the middle of the year has hit, the Sydney institution has thrown over its walls to another massive art name: Alphonse Mucha. The Czech-born painter and illustrator is virtually synonymous with Paris in the art nouveau period in no small part thanks to posters for French stage actor Sarah Bernhardt in the late-19th and early-20th centuries — and Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau, AGNSW's big winter showcase, is dedicated to his work.

In an exclusive-to-Sydney display that opened on Saturday, June 15 in Naala Badu, the gallery's north building, and runs until Sunday, September 22, Australian audiences can now step through why Mucha's art is so influential. Whether they're devoted to a theme, a movement or a specific artist, every exhibition tells a story, with this one exploring the two parts of its name: a man who gave an era its look and the aesthetic that he helped immortalise.

This isn't a small step through all things Mucha, with more than 200 items featured. Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau is the most-comprehensive showcase of the artist's work that the country has ever seen, in fact. And yes, posters for Bernhardt and others are among the pieces on display, alongside illustrations, photographs, sculptures, jewellery and interior decoration.

Surveying Mucha's five-decade career, created in collaboration with the Mucha Foundation in Prague and featuring works from the Mucha Family Collection, Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau also includes a digital component, with painting cycle The Slav Epic from 1912–26 — a piece that spans 20 canvases — getting the immersive treatment.

AGNSW is also pairing works by Mucha with Japanese prints sourced from its ukiyo-e collection that date to the same period that Mucha was in Paris, plus band posters and record covers from the 60s and 70s, as well as manga from more recently, that demonstrate his ongoing influence.

"Alphonse Mucha was one of art's great stylistic innovators, and whilst best known for his iconic posters and decorative designs that contributed to the development of art nouveau, we hope this truly comprehensive exhibition will offer audiences the chance to take a deeper look at the remarkable life of this fascinating artist and his humanistic ideals," said AGNSW Director Michael Brand.

"We are grateful to the Mucha Foundation for their generosity in lending these treasures to allow audiences here in Sydney the chance to discover an exhibition not only rich in art but also in history, human achievement and political commitment."

Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau displays at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Domain, Sydney from Saturday, June 15–Sunday, September 22, 2024. For more information, visit the venue's website.

Images: installation view of the 'Alphonse Mucha: Spirit of Art Nouveau' exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 15 June – 22 September 2024, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Diana Panuccio.

Published on June 17, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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