Freedom of Movement: Contemporary Art and Design from the NGV Collection

NGV-Installation-view-of-Steve-Carr’s-Watermelon-2015-photo-by-Sean-FennessyFreedom of Movement: Contemporary Art and Design from the NGV Collection is a new exhibition featuring more than 60 works of contemporary art and design by some of the most recognisable names working today, including Patricia Piccinini, KAWS, nendo, Paola Pivi, Nick Cave, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Shilpa Gupta, Alicja Kwade, Daniel Arsham and Alex Prager.

Offering a dynamic survey of the State collection across contemporary furniture, lighting, painting, film, sculpture and installation, the exhibition provides audiences the chance to engage with remarkable contemporary works in new and surprising contexts, as well as to appreciate the spectacular correlations and interrelationships between art and design.

Crossing cultures, disciplines and traditional divides, Freedom of Movement presents a selection of NGV Collection works bound together by ideas of movement – be that physical, technological or geographical. Presented across four thematic ‘movements’, each anchored by a major work, the exhibition invites audiences to contemplate concepts of movement, change, perception and transformation in contemporary life.

Highlights include Japanese design studio nendo’s iconic Manga chairs, 2015. Presented in a vast grid that fills an entire gallery space, each chair is a character in its own right, moving between flatness and abstraction. Inspired by the line drawings of Japanese Manga comics and incorporating their visual vocabulary, such as speech bubbles and movement lines, as a group the work is a study in how furniture can convey gesture and emotion.

Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s work Please Empty Your Pockets, 2010 consists of a moving conveyor belt with a computerised scanner that records an image of everything that passes under it. The work invites visitors to place any small item from their pockets onto the conveyor belt.

The item passes under the scanner and, as the real item is removed from the conveyor belt, a digital impression – or memory – is left behind. The piece ‘remembers’ up to 600,000 object images which are continuously overlayed atop one another.

Calling attention to the movement of people around the world, Shilpa Gupta’s Untitled (Rock), 2012-15, is an amorphous floating mass made from hundreds of black microphones. Audio emanating from the work is based on a poem by the artist that imagines a world in which people can move freely across national borders.

The work continues Gupta’s investigations into borders and boundaries with specific reference to the Partition of India in 1947. In this work, Gupta asks visitors to physically navigate a mass of silenced, marginalised and overlooked voices.

The final ‘movement’ of the exhibition comprises a selection of sculptures that explore human and animal forms, in disguise, through play or abstracted beyond recognition. These sculptures are profiles of hope, celebration and dynamic life, whether real or imaginary. Artists in this section include KAWS, Patricia Piccinini, Francis Upritchard, Nick Cave, Dan Halter and Erwin Wurm.

Presenting many works in conversation for the very first time, Freedom of Movement highlights the diversification and growth of the NGV Collection over a ten-year period. The exhibition emphasises the NGV’s commitment to collecting new and ground-breaking contemporary art and design, which will be housed in Australia’s largest gallery dedicated to contemporary art and design, The Fox: NGV Contemporary.

Opening in 2028 as part of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation, The Fox: NGV Contemporary will provide large-scale and flexible exhibition spaces to present works of global significance and ambition never-before-possible, as well as providing more than 13,000 square metres of space to display icons from the NGV’s growing collection of contemporary art and design.

“We’re delivering even more reasons to visit Melbourne’s CBD, with this latest exhibition adding to a roster of blockbuster exhibitions set to draw thousands to Australia’s cultural capital,” said Minister for Creative Industries, Steve Dimopoulos.

“Showcasing the treasure trove of contemporary art and design held within the NGV’s collection, the works will soon find a home in Victoria’s new landmark gallery The Fox: NGV Contemporary – providing visitors a taste of what’s to come, upon the completion of Australia’s largest cultural infrastructure project,” said Minister Dimopoulos.

“This exhibition is a celebration of the NGV’s recent acquisitions of contemporary art and design, which have been especially empowered by a commitment to commissioning and acquiring new work for our popular contemporary exhibitions Melbourne Now and the NGV Triennial,” said Director NGV, Tony Ellwood AM.

“We are grateful for the generosity of our supporters, who have contributed to many of these important acquisitions and helped to create this important cultural legacy for future generations.”

Freedom of Movement: Contemporary Art and Design from the NGV Collection
NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Exhibition continues to 23 April 2023
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Installation view of Steve Carr’s Watermelon, 2015 on display in Freedom of Movement: Contemporary Art and Design from the NGV Collection at NGV International, Melbourne – photo by Sean Fennessy