NGV Triennial 2023

NGV International's free three-yearly showcase features robot dogs, Yoko Ono's art, a giant thumbs up and a room-sized ode to plants.
Sarah Ward
December 04, 2023


Since 2017, the Melbourne-based National Gallery of Victoria has hosted the NGV Triennial art showcase every three years, with this 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 — 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's 75 works from 100-plus artists, complete with more than 25 world-premiere projects, all tying into the themes of magic, matter and memory.

A big highlight: Boston Dynamics robot dogs, which are showing off their very good painting skills. This clearly isn't Black Mirror, with Polish-born Agnieszka Pilat training the robot dogs to make art, as NGV Triennial attendees can watch happen. They're creating a monolithic durational work, with Pilat exploring technology's power in modern life in the process.

While attending NGV Triennial is free, you don'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 has provided a large-scale text-based piece that displays on the building's façade.

One of the joys of an exhibition like this is the sheer variety of works — although Paris haute couture house Maison Schiaparelli's involvement would be a standout anyway. Artistic Director Daniel Roseberry has picked 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 a celestial theme.

Also immersive: Tokyo-based artist Azuma Makoto's room-sized homage to nature, specifically plants and their magic, beauty and life force. The artist has frozen Australian flowers and botanicals into acrylic blocks, then combined 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.

Tracey Emin has contributed 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 stacks 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 tasked 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.

Images: installation views of Azuma Makoto's work, designs by Maison Schiaparelli, Agnieszka Pilat's work Heterobota and Yoko Ono's work I Love You Earth, on display as part of NGV Triennial at NGV International, Melbourne. Photos: Sean Fennessy.


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