Australia may suffer the tyranny of distance, but it has always looked abroad to what is happening in the global art scene. What that means is that often – quite often – the work of British artists is presented in the southern hemisphere.
ArtsHub takes a look at 10 British artists currently showing in Australia.
1. Tacita Dean
Tacita Dean was born in Canterbury, UK in 1965. While today she lives and works in Berlin and Los Angeles, those anchors of her early life still impact and influence her work. The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) – arguably Australia’s leading contemporary art institution – is currently showing a major survey of Dean’s work.
The exhibition includes a number of Dean’s films, in particular the impressive room-sized dual-projection Geography Biography (2023), as well as Dean’s mammoth unsealed chalk drawings. It also presents a new work developed in collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor and composer Thomas Adès for the Royal Ballet London’s The Dante Project. Showing until March 2024. Read the review.
2. Marshmallow Laser Feast
From the roots of a majestic Amazonian tree to the cells inside our bodies and the galaxies above, everything is connected – an idea that is the foundation for London-based experimental art collective, Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF), which is behind the world premiere exhibition, Works of Nature, at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne. Five major digital artworks on an awe-inspiring scale will captivate visitors until April 2024. Read the review.
3. Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin is no stranger to headlines, and it is no different in Australia. Her work in the NGV Triennial at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, is beautifully placed within the Gallery’s collections. Central is the large neon Love Poem for CF (2007) – edition 3/3, which was purchased by the Gallery this year for the exhibition. This confessional work was written in the late 1990s, and the original version was the centrepiece of her breakthrough exhibition at the South London Gallery in 1997.
Around it are a series of Emin’s bronzes presented on low displays – five them also acquired by the NGV (2014-2015) – and six gouaches from 2014, again acquired. It is a big investment – and Emin was in Australia for the unveiling in December. Her work remains on display until April 2024.
4. David Shrigley
Londoners would be familiar with David Shrigley’s work Really Good, the Fourth Plinth commission, which was unveiled in 2016 in London’s Trafalgar Square. A monumental bronze by the Turner Prize-nominated artist – standing just over seven metres tall – it now commands attention at the entry to NGV International in Melbourne.
It was made in the immediate aftermath of Brexit – and offers a thumbs-up (or is it, somehow, a raised finger?) and sets the tone for this year’s NGV Triennial. What is certain is that Shrigley (returning as a favourite of this particular Australian gallery) brings a larkish irreverence to the gallery space that is loved by many. Read the NGV Triennial review.
And as if that is not enough Shrigley, the NGV will restage his participatory artwork of over 8000 tennis balls, as Melbourne Tennis Ball Exchange. Originally presented as the Mayfair Tennis Ball Exchange in London in 2021 at Stephen Friedman Gallery, it saw thousands of people engage with the work. The same is expected in Melbourne, as part of the free, late-night NGV Triennial EXTRA program, 19-28 January 2024. Shrigley says the work was inspired by his dog.
5. Thomas J Price
If any artwork gives us a hint of the tone on the ground in Australia, as it attempts to recover from a “No” referendum vote on recognising First Nations peoples in the constitution, is Thomas J Price’s two “sculptures of statues” (as he calls them) that stand around three metres tall in the entrance of the NGV in Melbourne, also for NGV Triennial.
Larger than life, All In (2021) and Reaching Out (2020) shout, “Hey, I’m not invisible”. They are black, anonymous and everyday. Price confronts the lack of people of colour (POC) represented in public statues in the UK – their inclusion having a resonance here in Australia too.
6. Bethan Laura Wood
In the second year of the 2023 MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission, London-based multidisciplinary designer Bethan Laura Wood has been chosen as the recipient, with her resulting installation unveiled for the NGV Triennial exhibition. Known for her radical approach to materiality, colour and pattern, Wood’s installation Kaleidoscope-o-rama, animation (2023) is an 18-minute animation, that is presented alongside two new works – Kaleidoscope-o-rama, carpet and Kaleidoscope-o-rama, bookcase – a custom carpet, display case and iconic tomes on design, which have had their identifying dust jackets removed.
Wood completes her installation with objects from the NGV Collection dotted around the space in museum cases. She has long been interested in how furniture and objects are part of a narrative of women of the aristocracy in England during the Regency period of the late 18th to early 19th century, and the place of the parlour.
Wood was in Melbourne for the unveiling of the installation, which will remain on view until April 2024. The Commission is an ongoing series that invites women working at the forefront of global design and architecture practice to create major new and significant works for the NGV Collection.
7. Bruce Munro
For his exhibition that opened earlier this year, and 40 years on from his first visit to Australia’s Red Centre, Bruce Munro has partnered with Australia’s largest regional accommodation provider, the G’day Group, to bring his immersive sound and light installation, Light Towers, to Discovery Resorts – Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory. On permanent display.
8. Michael Shaw
British sculptor Michael Shaw will unveil Hi-Vis to Australian audiences in January for the Sydney Festival. To be presented in the old dockside buildings of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct, Hi-Vis is a new version of his inflatable sinewy sculptures, specially commissioned for the festival. Shaw has shown similar works around the UK, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This new work will be a 46-metre long installation, in his signature neon colours, casting a warm glow against the heritage timber interior. And, after the sun sets, UV lights will make the sculpture glow in the dark. Showing through January 2024.
9. The Design Museum
While not strictly an artist, London’s The Design Museum (TDM) is a bit of a star in itself. HOTA Gallery, on Australia’s Gold Coast, has the perfect summer show – the Australian premiere of Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street. First unveiled by TDM in mid-2021, the exhibition has taken over 400 objects, including 200 shoes, photography, videos and artworks on tour … and it is making an impact with Australian audiences. Read ArtsHub‘s story.
10. Anish Kapoor
One of the most celebrated artists of his generation, Anish Kapoor’s artworks have long captivated gallery visitors. On loan from the artist is one of his diptych, corner mirror works, Red and Black Mist Magenta (2018) for the exhibition Fairy Tales, at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art. Two concave mirrored forms seemingly swallow the viewer into their shiny abyss. They riff off the phrase from Snow White’s famous line, ‘Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’