This Gallery's Blockbuster Exhibition Is Returning With a New Perspective

Megacities project, São Paulo, Brazil

The gallery’s blockbuster exhibition returns with a new perspective.

“There’s a concept called the Overton Window,” says Ewan McEoin, senior curator of contemporary art, design and architecture for the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2023 Triennial. “It explains the shifting window of what’s in focus in public opinion at any point and the way it moves like a spotlight over time.” It’s an idea that’s core to the Triennial’s ambitions as it aims to provide a creative snapshot of the most pressing issues we face in this moment.

Outside in the garden, a 14-metre-tall sphere entitled (This Is) Air changes through the day as it “breathes” then releases air in a natural rhythm. In the Megacities project, 10 photographers from the most densely populated cities on earth – from São Paulo to Dakar – have been commissioned to document life in their hometown for a year.

McEoin expects one million visitors to the Triennial, a free exhibition showcasing more than 75 projects by 100 artists, designers and collectives, 25 of which are world premieres made for the event.

For little ones, the work of French illustrator Jean Jullien is woven into a playful interactive experience in which the NGV Kids gallery is transformed into Rififi: Jean Jullien for Kids, an underwater world inspired by the artist’s childhood trips to the French coast. Dressing up in fish costumes created by Jullien, children can explore an immersive space featuring large-scale drawings by the artist. Youngsters are sure to be transfixed but McEoin points out that all the art on show can be enjoyed on a range of levels. A project by Polish-born artist Agnieszka Pilat – in which three Boston Dynamics robotic dogs will spend four months living in an apartment inside the gallery, making a new painting each day – is more layered than it looks. “For a five-year-old, it’s an amazing thing,” says McEoin, “then, at a higher complexity, it raises the question of who owns the art being created by the robot dogs. Is it even real art if it’s created by AI?”

While this year’s themes – Matter, Magic and Memory – span the spectrum of emotion, McEoin says the Triennial’s main ambition is one of hope. “The punchline is that creativity gives us agency to shape the world around us. We approach things from an inherently optimistic perspective.”

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Image credit: Gustavo Minas

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