Bourgeois spiders and Kandinsky masterpieces: Sydney set for a summer of blockbuster art

Exhibitions for Paris-born sculptor, the pioneering Russian painter and ‘one of the greatest living artists’ are all headed for Australia this summer

A major survey of the works of Louise Bourgeois and a blockbuster Wassily Kandinsky exhibition are heading for the Art Gallery of New South Wales later this year, as part of a targeted bid by the NSW government and Destination NSW to attract tourists to Sydney.

Sydney’s International Art Series for 2023-2024 will also include a major show for the British-German artist Tacita Dean at the Museum of Contemporary Art in December, which will include several new works commissioned by the museum.

The NSW arts minister, Ben Franklin, said the three simultaneous exhibitions featuring major figures of the art world are expected to attract 28,000 art lovers to Sydney and inject $21m into the economy.

“Securing these three extraordinary, world-renowned artists reaffirms Sydney as Australia’s cultural capital and a global hub for the arts,” Franklin said at the announcement on Tuesday.

The AGNSW’s director Michael Brand said the Bourgeois exhibition, titled Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded Day?, would be spread across two gallery spaces and mark the first monographic exhibition for the gallery’s new contemporary art building, which still does not have a name.

At Tuesday’s announcements it was variously referred to as Sydney Modern, the New Building and the North Building. An AGNSW spokesperson said discussions were “ongoing” over a name for the $344m expansion, which has almost doubled the exhibition space in the state art museum.

Louise Bourgeois in her studio in New York City in 1995.
Louise Bourgeois in her studio in New York City in 1995. Photograph: Porter Gifford/Corbis/Getty Images

The Bourgeois exhibition, which will be on display from November 2023 to April 2024, will occupy a full gallery in the new building and the cavernous Tank space in the building’s bowels, which is currently housing an installation by Argentinian sculptor Adrián Villar Rojas.

More than 150 works by the Paris-born artist will be part of the exhibition, spanning seven decades of creativity; Bourgeois died at the age of 99 in 2010. It will include some of her earliest pieces created as a newly minted New Yorker in the 1940s – described by AGNSW curator Justin Paton as “slender haunting works”, such as Woman with Packages.

Several Bourgeois works travelling to Sydney have never been shown in Australia, including her seminal 1970s installation The Destruction of the Father; one of her iconic arachnid sculptures, Crouching Spider; and a large textile work titled Ode to the River, which pieces together garments and fabrics collected over the artist’s life to present “a book of memory”, Paton said.

Wassily Kandinsky’s Landscape with rain, January 1913, oil on canvas.
Wassily Kandinsky’s Landscape with rain, January 1913, oil on canvas. Photograph: Allison Chipak/Solomon R Guggenheim Founding Collection

The Kandinsky exhibition, which will be housed in the AGNSW’s old building from November to March, will be drawn from the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation collection and will be curated by the New York Guggenheim Museum’s Megan Fontanella.

Jackie Dunn a senior curator at the AGNSW, said the Russian-born father of abstract arts was “a thought leader who drove our present day thinking about what art is, what the artist is and what the artist does”.

Works coming to Australia will include Blue Mountain, created by Kandinsky when he was a young Russian émigré living in Germany in the early 20th century, as will his paintings from his Bauhaus years in 1920s Paris and from a decade later when he returned to the city, having fled Nazi Germany

An exhibition of abstract watercolours by British Victorian-era spiritualist and medium Georgiana Houghton, who supposedly painted while under spiritual trances, will be held simultaneously in the AGNSW.

Film artist Dean will travel to Australia for her retrospective, which will open at the MCA in December. A Turner prize nominee and winner of the Aachen Art prize in 2002, Dean was described by MCA director Suzanne Cotter as “one of the greatest living artists”. Dean’s exhibition will include a video work compiled from footage taken at Sydney’s Carriageworks during the 2014 Sydney Biennale.


Kelly Burke

The GuardianTramp

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