NGV Triennial 2023 Is Bringing Robot Dogs, Yoko Ono's Art and a Room-Sized Ode to Plants to Melbourne

Displaying this summer, the spectacular showcase will feature 75 works, complete with more than 25 world-premiere projects.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 06, 2023
Updated on December 22, 2023

Every major exhibition gives art lovers two gifts: the joy of discovering what'll display on its walls and halls when that first announcement hits, and the thrill of actually seeing the end results IRL while wandering, peering and contemplating. With Boston Dynamics robot dogs, work by Yoko Ono, a collaboration with Paris haute couture house Schiaparelli, and Tokyo-based artist Azuma Makoto's room-sized tribute to plants all on the just-revealed NGV Triennial 2023 bill, that initial round of delights starts now.

Since 2017, the Melbourne-based National Gallery of Victoria has hosted the art showcase every three years, with this upcoming summer's iteration from Sunday, December 3, 2023–Sunday, April 7, 2024 the third. Designed to provide a portrait of the world each time it is staged — if art trends and breakthroughs; the artists making them; and the themes, ideas and events they're responding to — each NGV Triennial delivers a hefty program. This time, there'll be 75 works from 100-plus artists, complete with more than 25 world-premiere projects, all tying into the themes of magic, matter and memory.

Azuma Makoto, Block Flowers 2020 ©️ Azuma Makoto Courtesy the artist.

A big highlight: those mechanical pooches, who will also show off their very good painting skills. This clearly isn't Black Mirror, with Polish-born Agnieszka Pilat training the robot dogs to make art, which NGV Triennial attendees can then watch happen. They'll create a monolithic durational work, with Pilat exploring technology's power in modern life in the process.

While attending NGV Triennial is free, you won't have to go inside the NGV International on St Kilda Road to see Yoko Ono's contribution. Drawing upon six decades making art, including her famed Instruction Pieces and major public art commissions, she's providing a large-scale text-based piece that'll display on the building's façade.

Installation view of Sheila Hicks's Nowhere to go 2022 at Off Grid, The Hepworth Wakefield, United Kingdom. Proposed acquisition, NGVWA.
Courtesy the artist and Alison Jacques.

One of the joys of an exhibition like this is the sheer variety of works — although Schiaparelli's involvement would be a standout anyway. Artistic Director Daniel Roseberry is picking items from recent collections to display, plus a range of gilded surrealist accessories and body adornment. And, as well as showing his penchant for pushing boundaries and pairing art and fashion, there's set to be a celestial theme.

Also immersive: Makoto's homage to nature, specifically plants and their magic, beauty and life force. The artist is freezing Australian flowers and botanicals into acrylic blocks, then combining them with a multi-screen film about the life and death of blooms. Yes, you'll be thinking about nature while you take it in.

David Shrigley, Really Good, 2016, bronze, 680 x 380 x 160 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London © David Shrigley. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2023.

Tracey Emin is also contributing a series of works, including five-metre-high text-based neon light installation based on the British artist's own handwriting. From Paris-based and American-born sculptor Sheila Hicks, Nowhere to Go will stack her blue-hued bulbous sculptures against a wall. Or, there's David Shrigley's Really Good — a seven-metre-high thumbs-up.

Elsewhere, the massive one-hundred-metre-long woven fish fence, Mun-dirra, was made over two years by ten artists and their apprentices from the Burarra language group Maningrida, Arnhem Land — while large-scale commission Megacities is tasking ten street photographers to snap Cairo, Dhaka, Jakarta, Delhi, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Seoul, Lagos, Tokyo and Mexico City in all their urban glory. Don't miss Hugh Hayden's The end installation, which recreates a primary-school classroom but gets apocalyptic with branches and dodo skeletons.

The full list of featured artists also spans Petrit Halilaj, Betty Muffler, Hoda Afshar and Fernando Laposse, plus Flora Yukhnovich, Yee I-Lann, Joyce Ho, Shakuntala Kulkarni and SMACK — and more, obviously.

Courtesy of the NGV.

"In the three years since the last NGV Triennial, the world has experienced a great many structural shifts, including a global pandemic. Through the work of more than 100 artists, designers, architects and collectives from Australia and around the world, the NGV Triennial offers a powerful insight into the ideas and concerns empowering creative practice in 2023," said NGV Director Tony Ellwood, announcing the program.

"The artists, designers and architects of our time play an important role in helping us to understand, navigate and relate to the world around us. The 2023 NGV Triennial offers audiences a valuable opportunity to experience new and surprising forms of creative expression from around the globe, which, together, present a compelling snapshot of the world as it is, while also asking how we would like it to be."

Installation view of Hugh Hayden's The End 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

NGV Triennial 2023 will display from Sunday, December 3, 2023–Sunday, April 7, 2024 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Head to the gallery's website for further details.

Top image: Aaron Richter.

Published on April 06, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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