The Artists of 2020: Brook Andrew
By HG Masters
As the first Indigenous Australian to be named artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney in its 47-year history, Brook Andrew redefined the festival’s worldview with an artist- and First Nations-led perspective. Bringing together 101 artists and groups from around the world, Andrew proposed that in an era of environmental and cultural crisis, art has “power to resolve, heal, dismember, and imagine futures of transformation for re-setting the world” and gave a spotlight to artists addressing ideas of sovereignty, whether over land, resources, or one’s own body. Titled “NIRIN” after the Wiradjuri word for “edge,” the Biennale became a model for how an international art festival can be a platform of solidarity and resilience for marginalized voices and increasingly vulnerable communities. In a year when many in Australia were celebrating the 250th anniversary of the British Navy’s arrival on the continent, the Biennale became a public platform—through artworks and online conversations—for Indigenous voices to resist the glorification of colonial conquest. Andrew also took the Biennale as an opportunity to reconfigure the historic Old Court Galleries at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which foreground a European art historical tradition, as museums everywhere are being compelled to decolonize their approaches to the history represented in their collections.