We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

Lee Mingwei

A person with dark, chin-length bobbed hair, dressed in a black high-collared robe with wide white cuffs, sits holding a small wrapped object

Lee Mingwei, photo: Hugh Stewart

Spirit House

Working with architects SANAA to incorporate his artwork into the external rammed-earth wall of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new building, Taiwanese–American artist Lee Mingwei has created an intimate and contemplative space for visitors to take a personal journey or even have a spiritual encounter. Nurturing, generosity and reflection are deeply embedded in this experiential installation.

Spirit House was inspired by Lee’s experience of asking a Buddhist sculpture in the Art Gallery’s collection for guidance when he first visited in 1999, and returning later to give thanks. Visitors are invited to enter the Spirit House and spend time reflecting on their past, present and hopes for the future.

Within the space, a specially commissioned bronze Buddha, created near Taipei by master sculptor Huang Hsin Chung, sits in meditation. Each day a wrapped stone is placed in his hands. If a stone is present, the visitor may take it with them. When it has served its purpose on their journey, they are invited to return the stone, share their story and allow it to accompany someone else. Stories of these experiences can be shared in a book located in the Art Gallery library. If there is no stone, visitors may wish to request the spirit of the Buddha to guide and protect them.  

On display:
North Building, lower level 1

A seated Buddha sculpture on a plinth within a niche in earthen-walled room

Installation view of Lee Mingwei Spirit House 2022, commissioned for the Sydney Modern Project with funds provided by The Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation in honour of Daisy Chen 陳范儷瀞, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation 2022 © Lee Mingwei

A small grey stone, with two yellowish bands wrapped and knotted around it, sits within the upturned palms of a bronze sculpture

A wrapped stone in the hands of the Buddha

The face of a bronze sculpture, with arched eyebrows, downcast eyes, a straight nose and closed mouth

The face of the Buddha commissioned for Spirit House

A person leans over to inspect a bronze Buddha sculpture

Artist Lee Mingwei inspects the Buddha created by Huang Hsin Chung at the sculptor’s studio

A person uses a small tool to work on a large seated Buddha sculpture

Master sculptor Huang Hsin Chung working on the Buddha for Spirit House