NGV Triennial 2020 opens at NGV International: a free gallery-wide presentation of 100 Artists and Designers from more than 30 countries

NGV-Triennial-Refik-Anadol-photo-Tom-RossOpening this weekend – the NGV Triennial is a large-scale exhibition of international contemporary art, design and architecture that explores some of the most globally relevant and pressing issues of our time, including isolation, representation and speculation on the future.

Featuring 86 projects by more than 100 artists, designers and collectives from more than 30 countries, the NGV Triennial opens at NGV International on Saturday 19 December 2020, presenting the first opportunity for audiences to visit the reopened gallery.

Presenting works by Aïda Muluneh (Ethiopia) Alicja Kwade (Germany), Cerith Wyn Evans (Wales), Dhambit Mununggurr (Australia), Faye Toogood (England), Fred Wilson (USA), Hannah Brontë (Australia), Jeff Koons (USA), Joi. T Arcand (Canada), JR (France), Kengo Kuma (Japan), Liam Young (Australia), Misaki Kawai (Japan), Patricia Urquiola (Spain), Porky Hefer (South Africa) and Refik Anadol (Turkey), the NGV Triennial includes more than 30 major new world-premiere works especially commissioned by the NGV for this exhibition.

“The NGV Triennial offers visitors a significant opportunity to explore how we use art to express ourselves, communicate and consider the world as it is, while also asking how we would like it to be,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director National Gallery of Victoria.

“Artists, designers and architects of the twenty-first century perform a vital role in giving form to our collective imagination, fears and aspirations. We are all living in a world in flux: there has never been a more important moment to celebrate human capability than now.”

Offering a visually arresting and thought-provoking view of the world at this unique moment, exhibition highlights include: an entire floor dedicated to works concerning light and illumination presented in dialogue with the NGV’s historical collection.

A monumental video work by Refik Anadol spanning 10 metres high and wide, which uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and quantum computing to visualise our digitised memories of nature; and a larger-than-life mirror-polished sculpture of Venus, Roman goddess of love, by American artist Jeff Koons.

Further highlights include a comprehensive display of works by Yolngu woman Dhambit Mununggurr, the first Yolngu artist working at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre to depict Country in signature shades of acrylic blue paint. Comprising 15 large-scale single sheet bark paintings and nine larrakitj (hollow poles), some of which stand more than three metres high, the works have all been painted with the artist’s non-preferred left hand after a car accident left her with limited mobility.

Kengo Kuma, one of the most respected figures in Japanese architecture, has collaborated with Melbourne artist Geoffrey Nees to create an architectural pavilion that acts as a sensorial walkway through which to approach and contemplate a newly acquired painting by South Korean artist Lee Ufan. Botanical pavilion is constructed from timber harvested from trees that died during the Millennium Drought at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, some of which pre-date European colonisation.

Exploring the themes of daylight, candlelight and moonlight inspired by and within the context of the NGV’s seventeenth and eighteenth century Flemish, Dutch and British collections, interior designer Faye Toogood has curated several gallery spaces creating a considered salon-style interior featuring newly commissioned furniture, lighting, scenography, sculpture and large-scale tapestries.

Also making its world premiere is a work by renowned French artist JR, which brings global attention to the ecological decline of the Darling River. The work comprises a simple scaffold structure erected in the NGV Grollo Equiset Garden replete with a printed façade to house five large-scale stained-glass windows that depict orchardists who have been forced to remove and burn their families’ commercial orchards, and a senior Baakandji Elder and spokesperson for the Darling (Baaka) River. The portraits are based on photographs taken by JR when he visited the Sunraysia agricultural region of Victoria and New South Wales.

The exhibition is underpinned by four themes – Illumination, Reflection, Conservation, and Speculation – that invite audiences to embark on a journey of exploration and to discover the intersecting ideas through the works on display.

The four thematic pillars have emerged from the collective work presented in the NGV Triennial, illuminating the pressing concerns that preoccupy the artists, designers and architects of our time. Drawing on intimacy and awe, sadness and beauty, ruination and inspiration, these themes present a microcosm of the current world.

The NGV, the largest art book publisher in the southern hemisphere, has produced a large-scale and highly illustrated publication to accompany the exhibition, which features over 50 authors from around the globe presenting discourses from a variety of perspectives, including those of academics, journalists, literary figures, social commentators, artists and curators.

The NGV Triennial publication comprises five removeable paperback books housed within the single magnetic case. Four volumes speak to a different theme explored in Triennial, while the fifth volume acts as a dossier on NGV Triennial and will include biographies of artists and authors, and project descriptions.

Free and exclusive to Melbourne, this is the second instalment of the NGV Triennial, which is held every three years. The inaugural exhibition, held in 2017, remains the NGV’s most attended exhibition to date, with 1.23 million visitors. The NGV Triennial continues to 18 April 2021. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Installation view of Refik Anadol Quantum Memories 2020 on display in NGV Triennial 2020 from 19 December 2020–18 April 2021 at NGV International, Melbourne  © Refik Anadol – photo by Tom Ross