NGA unveil James Turrell: A Retrospective

James Turrell editorialJames Turrell, an indisputable leader of global contemporary light art, has arrived in Canberra for the opening of his retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia on Friday 12 December.

Turrell uses light and colour as his materials and this exhibition surveys works from every decade in his 50-year career. The Canberra retrospective follows an extraordinary response to exhibitions throughout 2013 in Los Angeles, New York and Houston. The US President, Barack Obama, awarded James Turrell the National Medal of Arts earlier this year.

“James Turrell is one of the most fascinating artists of our time and Australians have never before seen an exhibition like this,” said National Gallery of Australia Director, Dr Gerard Vaughan.

The exhibition includes projection pieces, installations, holograms, drawings, prints and photographs – works spanning Turrell’s career. There are 50 works in the exhibition, including 10 installations.

“I am delighted to open this exhibition in Canberra – it is one of my best,” said James Turrell. “I am very happy with the quality of construction and how the exhibition has turned out.  Visitors will see pieces from the early days to very recent works.”

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the Perceptual cell, Bindu shards. A premium ticket buys an experience into this immersive installation that only allows one viewer every 15 minutes. Entering a large, spherical capsule, we experience a light cycle, a kaleidoscope of colour, described by the artist as ‘behind the eyes’ seeing. Currently, tickets for the Perceptual cell have sold out until January 2015.

“The work of James Turrell challenges and confronts our perceptions of art, light and space. Everyone will have a very personal reaction to this exhibition,” said Lucina Ward, curator of the exhibition and International Painting and Sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia.

The Ganzfeld, Virtuality squared, is one of Turrell’s largest to date. Once inside, visitors are saturated in colour, uncertain of their surrounds as the space feels endless, with no visible edges or corners.

The National Gallery of Australia has also announced the acquisition of six major works by James Turrell: Joecar (red) 1968; Shanta II (blue) 1970; Orca 1984; After green 1993; Bindu shards 2010 (Perceptual cell); and First light 1989-90 and Still light 1990-91.

James Turrell: A Retrospective is organised in association with Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is on display at the National Gallery of Australia until 8 June 2015. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: James Turrell, Shanta II (blue) 1970 Cross-corner construction: fluorescent light, built space Dimensions variable: 106.6cm (max height of aperture) – National Gallery of Australia