The Biennale of Sydney is back and is taking over the city’s cultural icons and galleries until 5th June with works by 83 artists from 35 countries. Contemporaries members were invited to explore the playground of contemporary art and discover awe-inspiring installations on an exclusive tour lead by The Curators’ Department

The tour began at the MCA forecourt with Richard Bell’s Embassy – a homage to the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy, established on 26 January 1972 by Redfern-based Aboriginal activists. The Curators’ Department co-founder and former MCA senior curator Glenn Barkley, introduced the installation, explaining the symbolic power and ongoing political resonance of Bell’s work, before directing attention to the public debate taking place inside the tent.   

Jumping on board a water taxi, the tour then travelled across the glistening Harbour to Cockatoo Island, known for the duration of the Biennale as the ‘Embassy of Real’. The Island is one of several ‘embassies of thought’ curated by Artistic Director Stephanie Rosenthal as part of the festival’s broad theme, ‘The Future Is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’.

Fellow Curator’s Department co-founders Holly Williams and Ivan Muñiz Reed guided the group through the former convict settlement and shipyard, stopping along the way to share stories and insights on the sprawling array of art. Guests were asked to consider how the works portray spaces between the virtual and the physical, and how we perceive reality in our increasingly digitised era.

Highlights included Chiharu Shiota’s web of dense black yarn enveloping a room of white beds, exquisite drawings of imaginary maps by Emma McNally, navigating William Forsythe’s room full of swinging pendulums, and of course Lee Bul’s highly atmospheric ‘Willing To Be Vulnerable’ – an immersive installation of impressive scale, which fills the Turbine Hall with a circus-like scene of painted red and white draped sheets, flashing lights and a floating silver blimp.

Photo 19-03-2016, 3 19 21 PM

Contemporaries were treated to a sunny Autumn’s day and waterside views at lunch as they relaxed and socialised over delicious catering by Black Star Pastry. The afternoon was spent further exploring the Island and re-visiting favourite installations for a closer look.

The 20th Biennale of Sydney continues until 5 June, with art spread across 17 venues around the city including:

Cockatoo Island – The Embassy of Real
MCA Australia – The Embassy of Translation
Art Gallery of NSW – The Embassy of Spirits
Artspace – The Embassy of Non-Participation
Mortuary Station – The Embassy of Transition
Carriageworks – The Embassy of Disappearance
In Between Spaces


Be our guest at the next Contemporaries event! Become a member and receive invitations to an exclusive calendar of behind the scenes contemporary art experiences. Find out more and view our upcoming events here.