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Brook Andrew Leads a Global Lineup of First Nations Artists for the Biennale of Sydney 2020

The famed Australian artist is the new artistic director of the biannual citywide exhibition — and he's just announced its first 33 artists.
By Samantha Teague
April 09, 2019
By Samantha Teague
April 09, 2019

The centrepiece of the 2018 Biennale of Sydney was Ai Weiwei's 60-metre inflatable boat, a critique and exploration of the global refugee crisis. Next year, when the Biennale returns to art galleries across Sydney, the lineup of 70-plus artists will be examining another poignant issue close to the heart of Australia: First Nations sovereignty and intergenerational trauma.

Running from Saturday, March 14 until Monday, June, the 2020 Biennale will be titled Nirin, which means 'edge' in the language of western NSW's Wiradjuri people. The citywide exhibition will be made up of installations, artworks, interactive experiences and spoken-word pieces exploring seven themes inspired by 'nirin', which range from bagaray-bang (healing) to yirawy-dhuray (food) and gurray (transformation).

This year's themes are timely, for two reasons: the 2020 blockbuster will fall on the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's voyage to Australia — and it will be helmed by a new First Nations artistic director, famed Sydney-born, Melbourne-based interdisciplinary artist Brook Andrew.

Andrew has selected an impressive lineup of artists and creatives — many of them First Nations — from around the world to exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW, Woolloomooloo's Artspace, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Cockatoo Island, MCA and the National Art School for the exhibition's 12 weeks. And 33 have just been announced today.

The first announcement includes American cinematographer Arthur Jafa, who's worked with Solange and Spike Lee; famed Australian chef Kylie Kwong; Pakistani American sculptor Huma Bhabja, whose works are often seen as grotesque and confronting; audiovisual Beirut artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan; and Mexico's Teresa Margolles, who recreates morgues and objects inside them to explore thoughts surrounding death.

While there's no word yet on what artworks we'll see pop up next May, previous exhibitions have included mirror-filled shipping containers, an 'Embassy of Spirits' and a multimedia installation teamed with vocals by Rufus Wainwright — and Andrew himself is known for creating confronting and interactive inflatable works. So, expect many playful, immersive and boundary-pushing installations to make an appearance in 2020.


Tony Albert
Maria Thereza Alves
Lhola Amira
Sammy Baloji
Huma Bhabha
Blacktown Native Institution
Anna Boghihuian
Eric Bridgeman
Victoria Santa Cruz
Léuli Eshrãghi
Jes Fan
Nicholas Galanin
Fátima Rodrigo Gonzales
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Arthur Jafa
Hannah Catherina Jones
Bronwyn Katz
Mayun Kiki
Kylie Kwong
Barbara McGrady
Ibrahim Mahama
Teresa Margolles
Misheck Masamvu
Katarina Matiasek
Prof Sir Zanele Muholi
The Mulka Project
SJ Norman
Taqralik Partridge
Laure Prouvost
Lisa Reihana
Latai Taumoepeau
Gina Athena Ulysse

The 22nd Biennale of Sydney will run from Saturday, March 14 until Monday, June 8. We'll keep you posted on the whole artist lineup and exhibition program. 

Image: Biennale of Sydney 2018 by Zan Wimberley. 

Published on April 09, 2019 by Samantha Teague


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