What does 2018 hold for the visual arts?

You can tell a lot about a year by the topics that garner attention. We surveyed the exhibitions scheduled for 2018 to get a handle on what will dominate the year.
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Katharina Grosse, The horse trotted another couple of metres, then it stopped, installation view. Carriageworks kicks off the year with a passionate splash of colour and energy.

The general consensus percolating away is good riddance to 2017 and let’s bring on some good energy for 2018. The tone of many exhibitions across the year captures that energy, from big bold installations to another year of serious survey exhibitions by Australian artists. 2018 will host four biennales that survey the state of now and place Australian artists firmly within an international context, and will also offer an incredibly varied smorgasbord of blockbusters with the majors.

2018 also appears to be a year in which we remember and ask questions through exhibitions, and give greater prominence to activities at the edges – whether in remote areas, through collaborations, or through topics of gender, race and colonialism. As the year progresses, I am sure these conversations will continue to gain greater traction.

Contemporary Blockbusters

Carriageworks bookends the year with two major blockbusters: Katharina Grosse: The horse trotted another couple of metres, (pictured top), opens this week (5 January – 8 April). It is comprised of 8,000 metres of painted material suspended from the building’s unique industrial architecture. Director Lisa Havilah described it as ‘the most ambitious single-artist commission Carriageworks has undertaken.’

Then in November, American visual artist Nick Cave returns to Carriageworks to present UNTIL, comprised of thousands of found objects and millions of beads (23 November – March 2019).

In Queensland, the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) presents its largest solo exhibition by an Australian artist. Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection  (24 March – 5 August) includes major new commissions contextualised by works from the past 15 years. It is exclusive to GOMA.

Patricia Piccinini with her work The Bond (2016); courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco; Photo David Kelly

There will be three major biennales presented in Australia during 2018: the 2018 Adelaide Biennale of Art titled Divided Worlds curated by Erica Green and presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) (3 March – 3 June); the 21st Biennale of Sydney curated by Mami Kataoka across multiple venues (16 March – 11 June) and the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9)  across GOMA and the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) from 24 November through to 28 April 2019.

Also pitched in the biennale league is the 2018 Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial  presented by the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) the third in a series of curated exhibitions that present contemporary artists whose practice is connected by their commitment to drawing (7 July – 21 October).

In terms of the big contemporary buy-in shows: NGV International will present Masterworks from MoMA for its 2018 Melbourne Winter Masterpieces from 8 June – 7 October, a sure hit; while at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) it is a home grown version, American Masters, drawn from the gallery’s collection of New York School artists over the winter months (24 August – 11 November).

At ACMI in Melbourne it’s the world premiere of WONDERLAND that will be a crowd pleaser. It celebrates the screen history of Lewis Carroll’s timeless stories (5 April – 7 October). All are ticketed exhibitions.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s (MCA) big blockbuster this year is Sun Xun  (9 July – 14 October), one of China’s most exciting young artists, best known for his stop-motion animations that are based on thousands of ink paintings, charcoal drawings and woodcuts. His work interrogates the absurd incongruities between authorised histories and personal recollections, and ideas around propaganda, post-truth and what we now call ‘fake news’.

However it is an exhibition that has been brewing since 1968 that is going to be the real hit of 2018. NGV Australia in Federation Square will present a restaging of the gallery’s inaugural exhibition on its 50th anniversary, The Field Revisited  (27 April – August) – arguably the most influential exhibition in Australian art history.

Col Jordan, Daedalus – series 6 1968; synthetic polymer paint on canvas 164 x 170 cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1969

Taking a different tone – and the antithesis of the “contemporary” category – the AGNSW will also revisit a past exhibition. In 1966, a groundbreaking exhibition called Melanesian art curated by Tony Tuckson – with over 370 works from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Western New Guinea – was the most comprehensive exhibition of Pacific art held in an Australian gallery. Melanesian art redux revisits that show in 2018 (17 November– 17 February 2019).

Traditional Crowd-pleasers

The AGNSW seems to dominate the big traditional pleasers this year, a field which was previously dominated by the NGV in the past.

The year kicks off with The lady and the unicorn  (10 February – 24 June) – one of the masterpieces of medieval European art and a French national treasure. Later in the year is Henry VR,  where the Gallery’s c1540 portrait of Henry VIII returns to public display for the first time since 1962 to star in this virtual-reality installation. Showing 12 May – 9 September and developed in partnership with UNSW Art & Design.

But perhaps most illuminating is AGNSW’s exhibition, John Russell: Australia’s French impressionist (21 July – 11 November). Russell was an active participant in French late 19th-century avant-garde art movements. He was a close friend of Van Gogh and Rodin, dined with Monet and taught impressionist colour theory to Matisse. Yet, despite the efforts of his cousin Thea Proctor, he remains little known. This major survey presents Russell’s art from his studies in London and Paris.

Exclusive to Adelaide’s AGSA is the story of 19th-century French Impressionism, Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay (29 March to 29 July), featuring more than 65 works by Monet, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro and Cézanne – beauty as you have never seen.

Claude Monet, The Water Lilies Pond, pink harmony, 1900, oil on canvas, 90 x 100 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France, ©photo Musée d’Orsay

Over in Western Australia, it is A Window on Italy – The Corsini Collection: Masterpieces from Florence, an exhibition that features paintings from Italian artists such as Botticelli, Pontormo, Tintoretto and Caravaggio. It opens at the Art Gallery of WA from 24 February – 19 June.

Love and Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate will hit Australian shores with an exclusive at the NGA in Canberra from 4 December 2018 – 22 April 2019 – the first of its kind in Australia surveying this period.

The NGA will also roll out an exhibition right from the Palace – Buckingham that is – HRH Prince of Wales Watercolours (10 August – 18 November), while the AGSA offers another paper blockbuster: Picasso’s Vollard Suite (10 November – 28 January 2019), touring from the NGA. The Vollard Suite takes its name from Ambroise Vollard, the foremost French art dealer and publisher who gave Picasso his first Paris exhibition in 1901. Picasso produced for Vollard this group of 100 etchings.

Helen Johnson, installation view at Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 2017. Photo: Mark Blower

The Individual Voice

An exhibition commissioned in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, kicks off 2018 at Sydney’s Artspace with a sold look at a new body of work by artist Helen Johnson. Warm Ties will be presented  from 6 January – 20 February.

At Brisbane’s independent contemporary art space IMA, it is a solo exhibition by Tom Nicholson (March – June) that is sure to capture attention. Spanning two gallery spaces, it surveys the central role drawing plays in Nicholson’s engagement with contemporary political realities. The show presents works from 2005 to 2018.

At Melbourne’s Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) curators Charlotte Day, Hannah Mathews and Helen Hughes have taken a look at the art and life of Mutlu Çerkez,  the Turkish Cypriot Australian artist who lived and worked in Melbourne until his untimely death in 2005 (10 February – 14 April).

The AGNSW is presenting two interesting solo exhibitions during 2018: Anne Dangar: ceramics from Moly-Sabata (11 August – 28 October) and Tony Tuckson (17 November – 17 February 2019). Tuckson was one of Australia’s most influential abstract expressionist artists, who was also a curator and deputy director of AGNSW. The exhibition includes over 80 works ranging from the late 1950s to early 1970s.

Dangar was a central figure in the Moly-Sabata artists’ commune established by cubists Albert Gleizes and Juliette Roche near Lyon in France. Acquired from the Fondation Albert Gleizes, the gallery will show this collection of Dangar’s innovative ceramics, which fuse traditional pottery techniques with cubist designs – many displayed in Australia for the first time.

There are two interesting exhibitions in Sydney during 2018 that push, extend, explore and hijack space through interventions and new media. At Artspace artist Keg de Souza will will unveil her first Australian solo institutional exhibition (29 June – 19 August). Titled Common Knowledge & Learning Curves it will use architectural and educational theory to explore the ways in which space informs how we teach and learn.

And at UTS Gallery in Sydney Baden Pailthorpe’s solo exhibition (1 May — 22 June) titled Clanger will investigate the aesthetics and spatiality of sport through data, bodies and technology. Resulting from a 2017 Synapse artist residency with UTS Sport and Exercise Science.

Richard Bell will be showing with Gertrude Contemporary with his series Dredging Up the Past; image courtesy the artist.

Indigenous Insights

Gertrude Contemporary is kicking off the year with the solo exhibition, Richard Bell: Dredging Up The Past (2 February – 10 March). These new works are described as ‘more mature’ and having ‘a more direct sense of political urgency disentangled from [Bell’s] typical subversive wit’.

In Brisbane, the QAG curator Bruce Johnson McLean has put together a major survey of Tony Albert. Titled Visible (19 May – 23 September) it will include works from 2002 to the presenting.

John Mawurndjul, Ancestral spirit beings collecting honey, 1985-1987; courtesy the artist, image supplied.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) has collaborated with AGSA to present John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new – the first major survey of this significant artists, corralling barks from across his career. MCA (6 July – 16 September) and AGSA (26 October – 28 January).

Meanwhile, the AGNSW has chosen to spotlight Northern Arnhem Land artist Nonggirrnga Marawili this year in its program (3 November  – 24 February 2019). Also late in the year, the Gallery will presented a major survey of Judy Watson’s work, looking at her practice spanning almost 40 years (10 November – 2019).

Bejewelled and Designed

Fashion and design have increasingly become an annual feature in the exhibition programs across our nation, and 2018 is no exception.

Bendigo Art Gallery will present an exclusive with Marimekko: Design Icon 1951 to 2018 (3 March – 11 June). Established during the golden age of post-war Modernism, Marimekko is a Finnish textile and fashion company that achieved international fame with its bold screen prints and Pop Art-style graphics. 

The NGA goes all bling on us with its Cartier: The Exhibition (30 March – 22 July), with more than 300 pieces loaned from royal families and celebrities, not to mention Cartier’s own holdings.

Gerard Vaughan, NGA Director with Necklace, bracelet and pair of earrings, Cartier Paris 1951 owned by Lady Deterring, at the National Gallery of Australia. Photo credit: Ben Appleton – Photox.

Also turning to jewellery as an artform, the AGNSW will present The Daalder Collection of International Jewellery with the exhibition To have and to hold (Opens 21 July). Gifted in 2017, and featuring over 160 pieces that traverse Lalique to Vietnamese-German contemporary artists Sam Tho Duong.

The Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas launches its first activities in April, rising out of the Sydney based Foundation owned by patrons Brian and Gene Sherman. With a remit to dig deeper on the topics of contemporary fashion and architecture, to brings together headlines speakers hailing from France, India and Japan including Emmanuel Coquery, Akira Minagawa and Bandana Tewari – a must for fashionistas and design gurus (5-21 April).

Sydney Design Festival will be held 2-11 March while Melbourne Design Week is slated for 15-25 March, presented at NGV and various other locations.

Among the highlights will be the Powerhouse Museum’s exhibition Common Good (2 March – 2 December) and the Victorian Design Challenge – partnered with VicHealth – which challenges innovators to apply design in targeting a real-world problem.

Perhaps Australia’s most iconic designers, Grant and Mary Featherston will be the subject of a survey, Design for Life at Heide Museum of Modern Art (30 June – 7 October). Featherston’s philosophy was that design should benefit everyone.

History, memory, diaspora and change

Adelaide’s newest art space, ACE Open, plans to make a splash for Adelaide Festival with the exhibition Waqt al-tagheer: time of change (3 March – 21 April) co-curated by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah and Nur Shkembi. Highlights include a VR experience by Safdar Ahmed and the Australian premiere of Khaled Sabsabi’s installation At The Speed of Light, which debuted at the 2016 Yinchuan Biennale.

Gertrude Contemporary is presenting back-to-back exhibitions by Raafat Ishak and Khadim Ali (29 June – 4 August), while 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art promises an interesting exhibition by emerging artist Justine Youssef (2 October – 16 December) that examines the stifling white heat of global xenophobia with deeply personal and universal ruminations that layer the smell, sights and textures of her ancestral homeland of Lebanon.

Taking a more historical tone, Perth Festival has a great visual arts program this year. Among its highlights is an exhibition by Christopher Charles which delves into the activities of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo at Banjawarn Station (800km north-east of Perth) two years before their deadly chemical attack on the Tokyo subway. Showing at Gallery Central, Perth, 9 February – 3 March.

Jason Phu, lesser saints and the demons they carry, 2018. Installation image. Commissioned by Sydney Contemporary, Art Fairs Australia for the Cutaway, Barangaroo.

Again at 4A, curators Michael Do and Mikala Tai work with historian Karen Schamberger on their Burrangong Affray project – a two part research-based residency project with artists Jason Phu and John Young Zerungelooking at historical sites in regional NSW and responding to civil disobedience and racial tension in the early 1860s on Burrangong’s goldfields. (28 June – 14 August).

Regional and Metropolitan Mapping

Regional and metropolitan galleries across Australia have been consistently punching above their weight in programing, innovative collaborations and reach. 2018 will again prove that we have a lot to learn from our remote counterparts – especially with the return of the national Artlands 2018 conference in 10-14 October, this year hosted by Regional Arts Victoria and held in Bendigo and Castlemaine

Among the highlights that kick off the year are Blue Mountains artist Locust Jones’ solo exhibition, Hear No Evil / See No Evil at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (13 January – 18 March). Curated by Lizzy Marshall, Jones’ work transcribes the everyday onslaught of the atrocities and absurdity of popular culture news.   

Detail of Locust Jones’ news inspired artworks featured in his exhibition at Casula Powerhouse

And Campbelltown Art Centre presents Lisa Riehana’s first ever Australian survey Cinemania (12 January – 29 March), three decades of video works and photographs, including her 57th Venice Biennale work Pursuit of Venus [infected].

C3West is one of those projects that continues to percolate along and produces phenomenal outcomes. This year they are presenting the Blacktown Native Institution Project (2017-18) working with artists Tony Albert, Sharyn Egan and Moogahlin Performing Arts to develop concepts and outcomes embracing this site as a living community memorial of local, national and international importance for the Stolen Generations. A major public Corroboree event featuring some of the project artists’ works as well as performances by other artists will be presented onsite by June 2018.

Environmental pulse

A theme that doesn’t always come up when casting an eye over a year, often thought of as done or old fashioned, is land art or environmental art. But with the escalating concerns around global climate change, artists have again found this a pressing topic. A number of exhibitions across 2018 bridge these two positions.

The iconic land American artist of the 1960s and 1970s Robert Smithson will be shown by UQ Art Museum, Brisbane (10 March – 8 July) and Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) (21 July – 22 September) in 2018. The exhibition Time Crystals is the first in Australia dedicated to his the work. He redefined abstraction and challenged art history, declaring that ‘Nature gives way to the incalculable cycles of nonduration.’

Robert Smithson Yucatan mirror displacements (1–9) 1969 (detail); nine chromogenic prints from 35 mm slides, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Photo: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource, NY © Holt-Smithson Foundation/VAGA. Licensed by Viscopy, 2017.

Also bringing in a big name artist, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at UWA will present Yemen-born, London-based artist Zadok Ben-David’s installation Human Nature  for the Perth Festival (10 February – 21 April). Two installations – a field of 27,000 miniature plants resembling a bushfire-ravaged landscape, only to reveal new life, and a suspended circle hovering above it comes to life under UV light – to celebrate the rhythmic beauty of nature.

A nice one to look out for is Ewa Pachuka’s installation Arcadia: landscape and bodies 1972–77, an extraordinary work by one of Australia’s most significant examples of 1970’s fibre art. It was first exhibited at the AGNSW in 1978 and has been recently conserved and will return on display 3 March – 29 April.

Ewa Pachucka Arcadia: landscape and bodies 1972–77, Art Gallery of New South Wales © Ewa Pachucka

Gender and body

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrates it 40th Anniversary in 2018 and there will be activities at various venues across the city, including a visual arts program.

All About Women, the Sydney Opera House’s gendered festival of ideas will return on 4 March and will be streamed for those not local.

After rave reviews in Sydney, Nat Randall takes her performance The Second Woman to the Perth Festival, performed at PICA Performance Space on 3 March. A must see, must book event – step inside a 24-hour performance with a cast of 100 different men cast in a scene inspired by the John Cassavetes cult film Opening Night.

In its third and final edition, Artspace continues to push the boundaries with its exhibition THE PUBLIC BODY .03 (31 August – 28 October), which will speak to digital-physical adaption and notions of the future body, real and speculative.

New frontiers

A few that jump out for 2018 in terms of experimental art forms and the fusion of new and digital medias:

Alicia Frankovich delves into post-humanist thinking in an exhibition at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) (6 October – 15 December) curated by Hannah Mathews. Frankovich seeks to de-centre the experience of the audience by collapsing the primacy of our experience as humans into a field rich with other energies, histories and relationships.

Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s exhibition TEETH, GUMS, MACHINES, FUTURE, SOCIETY, also at MUMA  (6 October – 15 December) revolves around two interconnected cultural icons: ‘grills’ or teeth jewellery made of precious metals that are a status symbol in the rap and hip hop scenes; and Donna Haraway’s futurist essay A Cyborg Manifesto 1985.

If you have missed catching one of Ryoji Ikea’s experiences / performances then you will have the opportunity again in 2018, returning to Carriageworks with a new piece micro macro (4 – 29 July). Developed during a residency at CERN, European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, micro | macro is an immersive installation which sits at the intersection of art and quantum physics.

Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art also returns to Carriageworks (18 – 28 October) – 10 days of live works from across Australia and the Asia-Pacific presented by Performance Space, ranging from large-scale interventions to personal encounters.

Market watch

If you want to get a broad grasp quick then make sure you head to an art fair in 2018.

The Melbourne Art Fair returns under new Director and CEO Maree Di Pasquale in a pop-up “tent” pavilion at Southbank Arts Precinct alongside ACCA (2-5 August). Melbourne Art Week will run from August 2-8.

Spring 1883 returns to the Windsor Hotel 1–4 August.

Sydney Contemporary becomes annual in 2018, returning to its signature venue, Carriageworks (13-16 September) for its 4th edition. 

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair returns to Queensland 13-15 July; Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is scheduled for 10-12 August, while Tarnanthi Art Fairwill be presented in Adelaide from 26-28 October.

And if you want to dip you toe into international waters, then there is no better than Art Basel Hong Kong and Art Central, which will be held this year from 28-31 March.

Australians are also heading to the fourth edition of the Dhaka Art Summit this year (2-10 February in Bangladesh), with 4A presenting their Critical Writing Ensemble, Sovereign Words – bringing together Indigenous peers from four continents to address some of the critical questions driving Indigenous writing in the arts today – and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran invited as a solo artist project as part of Bearing Points, which considers the role in shaping regional identity.

Bricks and Mortar

With three gallery projects on the drawing boards nationally, 2018 is set to be a year of big fund raising and bold announcements.

In March, Artbank launches its next phase opening its Melbourne headquarters.

Adelaide Contemporary rolls into its next phase as finalists for its Architectural Design present their concepts in early April, with an announcement of the winning candidate anticipated to be made in early to mid-June 2018.

A State Significant Development Application for the Sydney Modern Project was submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment with the close of 2017. In the first half of 2018 there will be a determination on that application. In terms of dollars, $88M of the $100M capital target has been raised to date, with the balance to be found in 2018.

And also on the drawing block, the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta remains in hiatus. Following results of a formal inquiry into the move released in December, the committee has announced it will produce a final report regarding the relocation in 2018. Given this has been going on since 2015, one might suggest the State Government is overdue with transparent conclusions.

And if it’s more about building organisations through conversation rather than DAs, then the key conference for the visual arts sector in 2018 is the  6th Public Galleries Summit hosted by Carriageworks in Sydney from 18-21 March. With the theme Art and Artists: What Galleries Do? questions will be asked of the role of the cultural space.

Less bricks and more seats, the National Gallery of Australia will search for a new Director this year, with Gerard Vaughan concluding his tenure in October.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina