Record crowds attend 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Divided Worlds

Leigh RobbThe 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Divided Worlds curated by Erica Green has achieved record attendances with more than 240,000 people visiting the exhibition during its 93-day season, up 10% on the 2016 Biennial. 2018 Adelaide Biennial venue the Museum of Economic Botany in the Adelaide Botanic Garden has also recorded its highest attendances on record with the display of works of art by artist Tamara Dean.

Art Gallery of South Australia, Co-Acting Director, Lisa Slade attributes the strong attendance to the exhibition’s accessibility and visibility across the city, as well as the Biennial’s now well-established reputation, as an important platform for Australian contemporary artists to realise works of significant scale and ambition.

“As an across-city experience the Adelaide Biennial clearly resonated with a broad audience,” said Slade. “We are thrilled that our partners can work with us to grow audiences for art and that the North Terrace boulevard can be a platform for presenting the best in Australian art.”

To date six works of art from the 2018 Adelaide Biennial, collectively valued at over $690,000, have been acquired into the Art Gallery’s collection. Lindy Lee’s 7-meter-high sculpture, The Life of Stars – which has been illuminating North Terrace since February – has been acquired to honour the achievements of former Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Nick Mitzevich. A mirrored beacon, this monumental public sculpture is the culmination of decades of experimentation and represents a breakthrough moment in Lee’s artistic practice.

Thanks to the continued generosity of BHP through TARNANTHI: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, The Ken Family’s Kangkura-KangkuraKu Tjukurpa – A Sister’s Story has also been acquired into the Gallery’s collection. This triptych is the first collaborative painting by the Ken Family to enter the Gallery’s collection and represents a rare coming together of all five sisters and their mother, prompted by the occasion of the 2018 Adelaide Biennial.

In addition to Kangkura-KangkuraKu Tjukurpa – A Sister’s Story, Lisa Adams’ hyper-real figurative painting Inquisition has been acquired. Drawing on the historical paintings of early anatomical dissections the work depicts, in the artist words, “three surgeons performing investigative surgery (on an angel) in an attempt to discover what purity might look like, in order to improve the behaviour of humanity.”

Photography is also well represented in this year’s acquisitions with Tamara Dean’s Elephant ear (Alocasia odora), Sacred lotus (nelumbo nucifera) and Passage, willow forest (Salix) all taking their place in the permanent collection. These three photographs are from the series In our nature – a site-specific project commissioned for the 2018 Adelaide Biennial and photographed in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens.

As the lead visual arts event for the Adelaide Festival, the Adelaide Biennial is looking forward to 2020 when it will celebrate 30 years. Plans are well underway and include the appointment of Leigh Robb, Curator, Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia, as the curator of the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.

“Appointed the Art Gallery’s inaugural Curator of Contemporary Art in 2016, Leigh has extensive knowledge of both Australian and international contemporary art,” said Slade. “With a host of major exhibitions, contemporary commissions and publications to her name, Robb’s approach will be characterised by both energy and ambition.”

Details on the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art including the curatorial approach and participating artists will be released in 2019. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Leigh Robb, 2020 Adelaide Biennial Curator (supplied)