Art Gallery of South Australian announces major Ben Quilty exhibition

Ben Quilty - photo by Daniel BoudThe Art Gallery of South Australia has announced Quilty – the first major survey exhibition in a decade of one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Ben Quilty.

Developed by the Art Gallery of South Australia and curated by co-Acting Director Lisa Slade, the exhibition will be unveiled in Adelaide on 2 March 2019 before a year of touring to the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

“The exhibition presents a portrait of a socially engaged contemporary artist who is committed to art’s capacity to instigate change,” said Lisa Slade, Curator, Quilty and Co-Acting Director, Art Gallery of South Australia. “Quilty’s subjects are never objectified, but always rendered through the lens of personal experience.”

“For most of this century Quilty has been delivering urgent visions of our time in history. An unlikely activist, he wields paint to draw our attention to our responsibility as critical citizens in an increasingly fraught world.”

“The exhibition extends from Quilty’s early reflections on the initiation rituals performed by young Australian men to his experience as an official war artist in Afghanistan and his campaign to save the lives of Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.”

“The exhibition also includes works inspired by Quilty’s visits with author Richard Flanagan to Lebanon, Lesbos and Serbia, his revisions of the Australian landscape, and raw, intimate portraits of himself, his family and his friends.

Ben Quilty’s painterly obsession with cars, especially his treasured LJ Torana, saw him burst onto the art scene in 2002. The Torana presented, in a single subject, a self-portrait of the artist (an ‘auto’ portrait) and a contemporary vanitas symbol – one that signified the mateship rituals of his upbringing on the outskirts of Sydney.

Since winning the Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship in 2002 (the same year that his Toranas were first exhibited) Quilty has been awarded several art prizes including the 2007 National Self Portrait Prize, the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2009 and the Archibald Prize in 2011. He has been the recipient of residencies in Paris, Spain and Hill End in New South Wales. In 2011 he travelled to Afghanistan as Australia’s official war artist.

Quilty has also been represented in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including his first solo museum exhibition Ben Quilty Live! at the University of Queensland Art Museum in 2009, and in 2013 After Afghanistan, the major Australian War Memorial touring exhibition. International solo exhibitions include the Saatchi Gallery, London and Galerie Allen, Paris in 2014.

His work is held in state, national and regional public collections in Australia and in private collections both in Australia and abroad. He is represented by Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane.

“My work is about working out how to live in this world, it’s about compassion and empathy but also anger and resistance,” says Quilty. “Through it I hope to push compassion to the front of national debate.’

Presented as part of the 2019 Adelaide Festival, Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy, Joint Artistic Directors say “We are so pleased that the 2019 Adelaide Festival will include a major retrospective of Ben’s work at the Art Gallery of South Australia. We know that our local community and visitors will rush to experience the work of this singular artist first hand and the ideas and values that have informed his practice.”

Quilty will be presented at the Art Gallery of South Australia (2 March to 2 June 2019); before heading to Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (29 June to 13 October); and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (9 November 2019 to 2 February 2020). For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Ben Quilty – photo by Daniel Boud