Five Blockbuster Art Shows to Look Forward to In 2014

No popcorn among these exciting, accessible exhibitions.

Lauren Carroll Harris
Published on February 03, 2014

The blockbuster film is well and truly implanted in our imaginations. But what about the art shows of our time? Last year saw hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders worship the massive installations of Anish Kapoor, the pacifist embraces of Yoko Ono (both at Museum of Contemporary Art), and the bright-light/electro space odyssey of Ryoji Ikeda at Carriageworks.

2014 is a Biennale year — the blockiest of all Australian blockbuster shows. Here we look at a further raft of shows pitched at the everyday art lover that could never be construed as lowest-common-denominator popcorn shows — they embrace the perception-warping ellipses of conceptual art, the political upheavals of new China, and the “messy machinery of human nature”.

19th Biennale of Sydney

This is the big one. Artistic director Juliana Engberg’s theme, ‘You imagine what you desire’, will focus the imaginations of contemporary artists on alternative worlds and possible societies. Angelica Mesiti, Mikala Dwyer, Deborah Kelly and Zhao Zhao are among these artists, and Cockatoo Island, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Art Gallery of New South Wales are among the locales. It’s a promising theme that can hopefully connect audiences' most pressing aspirations with the loftier question, what kind of world do we want for the future?

21 March - 9 June at various locations

Sol LeWitt

If 2013 was the year of performance art led by Kaldor Public Projects’ 13 Rooms, perhaps 2014 is the year of conceptual art. 2013 was also a lull year for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, but in Sol LeWitt they have a serious boon. The American artist was one of the most influential early conceptual artists (in fact, he founded the term), removing all human traces of his hand from his work and elevating the pure idea or concept above the execution and aesthetic outcome. LeWitt’s highly abstracted, geometric and optically illusive works will sit alongside his ‘scribble drawings’ and unrealised ‘concrete structures’, as well his collection of linear and colour-based works of Indigenous artists Emily Kam Ngwarray and Gloria Tamerre Petyarre.

20 February – 3 August at the AGNSW


Think of this as the anti-blockbuster art show, popping up in small galleries and venues littered across the city. The little sibling of the Biennale of Sydney has come of age, with a reputation of curating some seriously forefront emerging artists. Pitched as an artist-run fringe event to the more above-ground and institutional BoS, SAFARI has the nimble, back-street keenness to program an interesting and experimental slate of young artists from across Australia. Last SAFARI brought the work of pristine, white toilet-paper art of Rachel Park to a wider audience than ever before. This time round, keep Liam Benson’s poetically futile video works, Emma Hamilton’s unconventional Australian landscapes and Gemma Messih and Ally Bishop’s elegantly abstracted extractions from nature high on your radar.

14 March – 4 April, various locations, free

Reformat10n, White Rabbit

Rewind five years and imagine Sydney’s gallery scene without White Rabbit. It’s tough. This tenth exhibition of the contemporary Chinese art gallery revolves around the idea of reformation — the succession of a new wave, the establishment of fresh ideas, a complete overhaul of the old ways of doing and thinking. White Rabbit’s shows rotate different parts of the Neilson family’s private collection, which includes Ai Weiwei’s huge mound of tiny ceramic sunflower seeds, and Shi Zhiying’s oil painting of an all-consuming, horizonless, grey-scale ocean, High Seas. The gallery consistently minimises the ‘shrug factor’ — that moment upon entering a gallery, glazed-eyed, when you have no idea how to engage with the work. White Rabbit doesn’t replace the shrug factor with shock factor, it just curates some of the most adventurous contemporary artists working in China and smashing together the political and the personal, history and present, today.

6 March - 3 August 2014 at the White Rabbit Gallery

??????, MONA

Details of the Museum of Old and New Art’s coming show (its current one, The Red Queen, closes April 21) are still on downlow, but in the gallery’s first few years, it’s established a reputation of bold, adventurous exhibitions that lead rather than follow art trends and appeal to those who think they don’t ‘get’ contemporary art. Owner, internet gambler and art mogul David Walsh has created a small, self-contained universe dedicated to sex and death (it’s hard to believe that such a gallery hadn’t been done before) and a great place to get lost in. The art world, and the world at large, eagerly awaits MONA’s next moves.

Published on February 03, 2014 by Lauren Carroll Harris
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x