Oct 10 2013

Shifting Strategies at QAGOMA

by Michael Young

CAI GUO QIANG‘s solo exhibition, including the Chinese artist’s installation Heritage (2013), will usher in QAGOMA’s new phase which includes a mandate to work with “living artists.”

Outlining his vision for the future of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Chris Saines, who was appointed the museum’s director six months ago, said he was ready “to set a new course for the gallery” in an effort to make it the world’s “leading museum for the contemporary art of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.” He then proceeded to outline some exciting prospects—namely, a new focus on landmark exhibitions by living international artists, a shift in curatorial attention for the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT) and a general gallery restructuring—that future visitors to the museum can anticipate.

QAGOMA’s new chapter will open with Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang’s first Australian solo show next month. Two works, entitled Eucalyptus and Heritage, have been newly commissioned for the project, demonstrating the gallery’s eagerness to engage with living artists. Eucalyptus is a 40-meter-long tree, sourced from Lamington National Park, while Heritage—which will be gifted to the gallery by local benefactor Win Schubert, and which Saines has cited as “the most significant single gift to the collection”—features 99 life-sized animals gathered at the edge of a watering hole in a manner that conjures “a poetic utopia.”

Further down the line, viewers can expect solo exhibitions by Cindy Sherman and Gerhard Richter to crop up in 2016 and 2018 respectively. The latter will be the German artist’s first major survey in Australia and will include 100 works elaborating on his photorealist and abstract paintings.

Researched and curated by the gallery, these are the types of exhibition that Saines says he is keen “to do more of.” There are also plans to invite leading experimental and conceptual artists James Turrell and Jenny Holzer to help light up the tenth anniversary of the Gallery of Modern Art’s (GOMA) opening in 2016.

This year, at the seventh edition of the APT—the museum’s 11-year-old event showcasing art from the Asia-Pacific region—contributions from Papua New Guinea proved particularly substantial. Saines therefore made another promise: to strengthen relations with the country in the coming years.

Perhaps the most radical element of Saines’ vision is the instigation of a curatorial shift for APT, which, since its inception in 1993, has gained the gallery international renown. Without divulging too much information, Saines hinted that the change will involve “two new countries and embrace a shift in the curatorial model in a number of critical new ways,” as well as inviting “younger and emerging artists along with performance-based work.”

A small game of musical chairs will also be taking place as part of Saines’ plans to “extend the gallery footprint.” Indigenous art will find its permanent home in gallery 2 of Queensland Art Gallery, while work from the Asia-Pacific region will move into GOMA’s gallery 3. GOMA will therefore no longer be reserved solely for rotating exhibitions.

Michael Young is contributing editor for ArtAsiaPacific.