On July 4, the Biennale of Sydney announced the appointment of Mami Kataoka as the artistic director of its 21st edition, set to take place in 2018. Kataoka is the first curator from Asia to be appointed as the artistic director of the Biennale. Recently, she served as one of the 13 international advisors in the 20th Biennale of Sydney, which was held earlier this year. Since its inauguration in 1973, the Biennale has brought international contemporary art, artists and art curators to Australia for more than 40 years.
In an email exchange with ArtAsiaPacific, Kataoka reveals that she will reference the various discussions held by the Biennale of Sydney since its first edition to inform her curatorial approach, which seeks to give voice to the underrepresented artists and communities. “I am particularly interested in finding a way to have more engagement from different local communities of diverse cultures, knowing that there are increasing numbers of residents in Sydney and Australia along with tourists from the Asian region.” She further elaborates, “I would like to learn more from Australian aboriginal people to understand their philosophy of life, which might have some resonance with other cultures, rather than including Indigenous works simply to fulfill preconceived expectations.”
In light of the recent budget cuts in Australia’s cultural sector, Kataoka sees that the local art community is uniting in efforts to challenge their current circumstances. She remarks, “It is important that art communities come together and discuss this fundamental question; how and why is art important to human life? I would very much like to be a part of this discussion through the Biennale.”
Kataoka, who is based in Tokyo, is the chief curator at the city’s Mori Art Museum, a position she has held since 2003. Previous tenures for Kataoka include chief curator at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, as well as the role of International Curator at the Hayward Gallery in London. Her curatorial projects have included “ROUNDTABLE: 9th Gwangju Biennale” (2012), where she was one of six co-artistic directors, which featured over 93 artists and groups from over 44 countries, with themes that explored the notion of non-hierarchical exchange in global cultural production.
She is also a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design Graduate School, and has written and held lectures on the topic of contemporary art in Asia. Currently, Kataoka serves as a board member of CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art), is a member of Guggenheim Museum’s Asia Art Council and an advisory member for Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing.
Commenting on the announcement, Biennale of Sydney Chairman Kate Mills says, “We are delighted with Mami Kataoka’s appointment as artistic director of the 21st Biennale of Sydney. As one of the region’s most accomplished curators, Mami will bring a truly fresh perspective and an Asian sensibility to the exhibition in 2018, enabling Biennale artists and audiences to explore in greater depth our relationship with the Asia-Pacific region and challenge conventional wisdoms.”