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Art Gallery of NSW 2021 program

Celebrating 150 years of exceptional art experiences

Henri Matisse The sorrow of the king (La tristesse du roi) 1952 gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on canvas, 292 × 386 cm Centre Pompidou. Musée national d’art moderne AM3279P Photo © Philippe Migeat – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist RMN-GP © Succession H Matisse/Copyright Agency

Friday 11 December 2020

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is delighted to announce its 2021 exhibition program and new dates for its Sydney International Art Series (SIAS) exhibition, Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said 2021 is of enormous significance for the state’s art museum as it celebrates 150 years and brings to life its ambitious vision for the future, while hosting a vibrant program of exhibitions.

“After such a challenging year, we are looking forward to a brighter 2021 – a year of milestones and a celebration of the Gallery’s past, present and future. We are celebrating our 150th anniversary, marking the 100th year of the Archibald Prize, and embarking on the revitalisation of our historic building. The Gallery is poised for a new era with the completion of the Sydney Modern Project due in late 2022,” Brand said.

“The new year brings a program that highlights the Gallery’s commitment to recognising the work of women, the centrality of Aboriginal art to our identity, and the importance of the arts of Asia and the Pacific to our understanding of global art and our place within it, as well as the work of many major individual artists including Margel Hinder, Pat Larter, Nina Chanel Abney and Robin White.

“And, after a long wait, the summer of 2021-22 will finally see the presentation of Matisse: Life & Spirit, the greatest single exhibition of Matisse masterworks to be seen in Australia in over a generation,” Brand added.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the return of the SIAS is fantastic news for Sydney as it has always been a big drawcard for visitors.

“While this year’s series was cancelled due to COVID-19, we are delighted it will be returning with two exceptional exhibitions: Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Doug Aitken: New Era at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia,” Mr Ayres said.

“Securing these coveted exhibitions reaffirms the NSW Government’s commitment to delivering world-class events for our state which play an important role in encouraging people to visit Sydney and growing the NSW visitor economy.”

Discover the joy of Matisse through more than 100 works spanning six decades in the Sydney-exclusive exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Offering an extraordinary immersion in the range and depth of the art of Henri Matisse, one of the world’s most beloved, innovative and influential artists, this exhibition is developed in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and is curated by Aurélie Verdier from the Centre Pompidou and Justin Paton and Jackie Dunn from the Art Gallery of NSW.

Reaching from his early adventures in colour as a Fauvist through to the serene and distilled designs for his chapel in Vence, the exhibition follows Matisse’s search across the decades. Through paintings, drawings, sculptures and a compelling presentation of his triumphant cut-outs, it reveals how Matisse renewed his vision time and again across his long career, seeking new ways of celebrating the seen world and expressing the energy he felt in it.

In conjunction with the Gallery’s major exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, Matisse Alive is a vibrant celebration of Matisse today. At the heart of Matisse Alive are four new artist projects that present contemporary perspectives on this ‘modern master’ and focus especially on his imagining of the Pacific and his representation of the female figure. Ranging from dynamic textile environments to heroically scaled paintings and an immersive video work, these projects are by Nina Chanel Abney (US), Sally Smart (Australia), Angela Tiatia (Samoa/NZ/Australia) and Robin White (NZ). The program continues with a spectacular display of tifaifai and tivaevae – the gloriously vibrant Pacific textiles that directly influenced Matisse’s late ‘cut-outs’ – and an expansive and colourful show of collection highlights that reveals Matisse’s ongoing relevance and compelling influence on today’s artists.

2021 begins with a summer of Australian art featuring Streeton, a landmark exhibition and the most significant retrospective of the iconic impressionist Arthur Streeton; “Archie Plus:, a program that expands on the ever-popular Archibald Prize, celebrating people, portraiture and the power of community after a year of challenge and change with a vibrant trail of alternative portraits in many mediums; Margel Hinder: Modern in Motion, a major solo show that reveals one of the most dynamic, pioneering and engaging sculptural practices to have developed in this country during the mid-20th century; Real Worlds: Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2020, presenting the work of eight contemporary artists who create extraordinary new worlds in drawings of great complexity and invention; Joy, an exhibition of works by Central Desert artists who celebrate the joy of making and sharing culture and life together; and Pat Larter: Get Arted, the first solo exhibition in a public art museum of the artist’s provocative, witty and joyful body of work.

Australia’s oldest and most prestigious portrait award, the Archibald Prize, celebrates its 100th birthday in 2021. To mark the occasion, the Gallery presents two exhibitions: the highly anticipated Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2021 and a celebratory national touring exhibition, Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize. Archie 100 explores the winners and the losers, the controversies and the commonplace, and above all, the artists who have made the Archibald Prize the most sought-after accolade in the Australian art world today.

The National 2021: New Australian Art will present current ideas and forms in contemporary Australian art across three of Sydney’s premiere cultural institutions – the Art Gallery of NSW, Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The exhibition at the Gallery will showcase 14 artist projects that explore the potential of art to heal and care for fragile natural and social ecosystems. Preferencing Indigenous ways of knowing, seeing and being, the exhibition will consider our relationship to sentient Country, as both a concept and lived experience.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is the focus of two exhibitions, The Purple House and Longing for Home. The Purple House acknowledges leading Pintupi artists and their enduring legacy in connection with the 21-year anniversary of the Western Desert Dialysis appeal that raised over $1 million through the auction of paintings by Papunya Tula artists. Longing for Home presents works by six Aboriginal artists from across mainland Australia who have documented their melancholic longing for Country, and how that emotion is characterised by both yearning and distance, time and space.

In the Gallery’s Asian galleries, the year begins with In One Drop of Water, exploring the poetic, symbolic and social significance of water in Asian art. In April, discover how food is a powerful symbol of culture in The Way We Eat, with ancient and contemporary art showing the limitless inspiration that the simple acts of eating and preparing food have had on artists for thousands of years.

The Brett Whiteley Studio presents two exhibitions in 2021: Feathers and Flight showcases Whiteley’s lifelong fascination with the beauty and character of birds and Printmaker features lithographs, etchings, linocuts and silkscreen prints of works produced by Whiteley between 1961 and 1992.

For the full Art Gallery of New South Wales 2021 exhibition program please see below.


Shadow Catchers | On now until 3 Jan 2021 | Curator: Isobel Parker Philip
Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2020 | On now until 10 Jan 2021 | TICKETED | Curator: Anne Ryan
Khaled Sabsabi: A Promise | On now until 10 Jan | Curator: Matt Cox
Real Worlds: Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2020 | On now until 7 Feb 2021 | Curator: Anne Ryan
Under the Stars | On now until 7 Feb 2021 | Curators: Cara Pinchbeck + Jackie Dunn
Streeton | On now until 14 Feb 2021 | TICKETED | Curator: Wayne Tunnicliffe
In One Drop of Water | On now until 21 Feb 2021 | Curator: Natalie Seiz
Archie Plus | On now until 21 Feb 2021 | Curator: Justin Paton
Joy | On now until 21 Feb 2021 | Curator: Coby Edgar
Pat Larter: Get Arted | On now until 21 Mar 2021 | Curators: Lisa Catt + Claire Eggleston
Brett Whiteley: Feathers and Flight | On now until March 2021 | Curator: Wendy Whiteley
Margel Hinder: Modern in Motion | 30 Jan – 2 May 2021 | Curator: Denise Mimmocchi
ARTEXPRESS 2021 | 4 Feb – 5 Apr 2021 | Curator: Louise Halpin
Longing for Home | 6 Mar – 22 Aug 2021 | Curator: Erin Vink
The National 2021: New Australian Art | 26 Mar – 5 Sep 2021 | Curators: Matt Cox + Erin Vink
Brett Whiteley: Printmaker | From April 2021 | Curator: Wendy Whiteley
The Way We Eat | 3 Apr 2021 – 2022 | Curator: Yin Cao
Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2021 | 5 Jun – 26 Sep 2021 | TICKETED | Curator: Anne Ryan
Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize | 5 Jun – 26 Sep 2021 | Curator: Natalie Wilson
The Purple House | 4 Sep 2021 – 2022 | Curator: Cara Pinchbeck
Matisse Alive | Oct 2021 – 2022 | Curators: Justin Paton + Jackie Dunn
Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris | 20 Nov 2021 – 13 Mar 2022 | TICKETED | Curators: Aurélie Verdier (Centre Pompidou) | Justin Paton + Jackie Dunn (AGNSW)


Fieldwork | Curator: Nick Yelverton
Maitland Regional Art Gallery, NSW | On now until 7 Feb 2021
Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of the Lewers Bequest, NSW | 12 Mar – 9 May 2021

Archibald Prize 2020 regional tour | Curator: Anne Ryan
Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, NSW | 22 Jan – 7 Mar 2021
Cairns Art Gallery, QLD | 19 Mar – 2 May 2021
Griffith Regional Art Gallery, NSW | 14 May – 27 Jun 2021
Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, NSW | 9 Jul – 22 Aug 2021
Shoalhaven Regional Gallery, NSW | 3 Sep – 17 Oct 2021
Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of the Lewers Bequest, NSW | 29 Oct 2021 – 9 Jan 2022

Real Worlds: Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2020 | Curator: Anne Ryan
Lismore Regional Gallery, NSW | 6 Mar – 25 Apr 2021
Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie, NSW | 8 May – 18 Jul 2021

Archibald Prize 2021 regional tour | Curator: Anne Ryan
Gippsland Art Gallery, VIC | 8 Oct – 21 Nov 2021
Hazelhurst Arts Centre, NSW | 3 Dec 2021 – 16 Jan 2022
Maitland Regional Art Gallery, NSW | 23 Jan – 6 Mar 2022
Cowra Regional Art Gallery, NSW | 18 Mar – 1 May 2022
New England Regional Art Museum, NSW | 13 May – 26 Jun 2022
Manning Regional Art Gallery, NSW | 8 July – 21 Aug 2022

Archie 100 tour: A Century of the Archibald Prize | Curator: Natalie Wilson
Geelong Gallery, VIC | 6 Nov 2021 – 20 Feb 2022
Cairns Art Gallery, QLD | 18 Mar – 12 Jun 2022
Art Gallery of South Australia, SA | 9 Jul – 2 Oct 2022
Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, TAS | 24 Oct 2022 – 8 Jan 2023
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW | 26 Jan – 26 Mar 2023
Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, NT | 15 Apr – 25 Jun 2023
Home of the Arts, QLD | 15 Jul – 2 Oct 2023
National Portrait Gallery, ACT | 21 Oct 2023 – 28 Jan 2024

Brett Whiteley: Drawing is Everything | Curator: Anne Ryan
Bendigo Art Gallery, NSW | 31 Jul – 31 Oct 2021
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW | 10 Dec 2021 – 30 Jan 2022

Mervyn Bishop | Curator: Coby Edgar
National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra | 5 Mar – 1 Aug 2021

Media contact

Sarah Shields
Tel 02 9225 1674