Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Contemporary art

Western art

View More:


Beginning now



Arlene Shechet

United States of America

1951 -


Arlene Shechet is an American sculptor whose practice reflects a profound understanding of the temporal and material qualities of the ceramic medium. Loose, irreverent and awkward without compromising structure or strength, her sculptures have a weighty objecthood while also suggesting living things. Having exhibited widely throughout the United States since the 1990s, Shechet received widespread acclaim in the 2010s for her solo exhibitions at the ICA, Boston (2015) and The Frick Collection, New York (2016), which asserted her ability to redefine the creative and critical possibilities of the decorative arts within a contemporary art context. Her ceramic sculptures are as much about what is on the inside as what is on the outside and, indeed, they reveal what happens when traditions and expectations are turned inside out.

A conflation of bulges and appendages, hollows and openings, 'Beginning now' flirts openly with the unorthodox. This bodily form, which sits atop its own pedestal of steel and wood, does away with standards of perfection, revelling instead in the provocative and the grotesque. From its irritated surface – which cracks and crinkles, bubbles and peels -- to its fleshy folds and swollen orifices, 'Beginning now' moves between figuration and abstraction in a manner that surprises and challenges.




Media categories

Sculpture , Ceramic

Materials used

glazed ceramic, painted steel, hardwood


154.9 x 38.1 x 45.7 cm


Mollie Douglas Bequest Fund 2016


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Arlene Shechet

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • Turn up the bass, Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York, 13 Oct 2016–12 Nov 2016

  • Something living, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Aug 2017–11 Feb 2018

Referenced in 1 publication


John Saxby (Editor), Look, 'The art that made me: Tomislav Nikolic', pg.23-5, Sydney, May 2018-Jun 2018, 25 (colour illus.).