Hilma af Klint: secret paintings from 'trailblazing' artist heading to Sydney

Art Gallery of NSW exhibition marks first time these works from the Swedish abstract painter have travelled to the Asia Pacific region

An artist who broke all attendance records with a retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim Museum two years ago will be featured in a new exhibition in Australia in June.

Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand announced Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings on Thursday, describing the large-scale exhibition as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover the extraordinary artistic achievements of this trailblazing artist who stood for too long outside the accepted story of European modernism”.

More than 100 af Klint works will travel to Sydney, including her acclaimed The Ten Largest (1907), 10 expansive and brilliantly coloured canvases exploring the human life cycle.

It will be the first time the works have travelled to the Asia Pacific region.

Although Wassily Kandinsky is generally credited as the father of western abstract art, Af Klint began her foray into the genre in 1906, some years before the Russian painter entered his Blue Rider period.

But the Swedish artist kept her abstract works hidden for decades, believing the world was not ready to understand them.

Museum goers at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City view the Hilma af Klint exhibition, the most popular show ever at the museum, in 2018/2019.
Museum goers at the Guggenheim Museum in New York view the Hilma af Klint exhibition, the most popular show ever at the museum, in 2018/2019. Photograph: David Grossman/Alamy Stock Photo

Before she died in 1944, Af Klint left instructions that some 1,300 rarely seen works, many of enormous scale and radiant colour, should remain hidden for at least two decades.

When her family rediscovered the trove in the late 1960s, they offered it up as a gift to Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, which promptly rejected the offer.

“In an era of limited creative freedom for women, Af Klint’s secret paintings became an outlet for her prodigious intelligence, spiritual quest and ground-breaking artistic vision,” said Brand.

“Very few of [her works] were exhibited during her lifetime, and only in the last decade have these works started to receive the detailed attention they deserve. Af Klint is at last taking her place in the canon of truly imaginative and innovative twentieth century artists.”

• Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings will open at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 12 June and continue until 19 September.


Kelly Burke

The GuardianTramp

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