Monster Theatres: 2020 Adelaide Biennial artists revealed

The first details of next year’s 2020 Adelaide Biennial have been revealed as the Art Gallery of South Australia prepares for a monster 30th anniversary program.

“Monsters ask us to interrogate our relationships with each other, the environment and technology,” Adelaide Biennial curator Leigh Robb says of the 2020 exhibition’s theme: Monster Theatres. “They force us to question our empathy towards difference across race, gender, sexuality and spirituality. The term ‘monster’ comes from Latin monere, to warn, and monstrare, to make visible.”

Leigh Robb, Curator, Contemporary Art, Melrose Wing of International Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (Photo: Saul Steed)
Leigh Robb, Curator, Contemporary Art, Melrose Wing of International Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (Photo: Saul Steed)

Building upon 2018’s Divided Worlds, the 2020 program continues to explore themes of duality while casting the net wide to showcase the diverse practices of artists from around Australia, including Sydney-based multi-disciplinary Sydney artist Judith Wright, LA-based Australian photographer and onetime Queen Elizabeth II portrait artist Polly Borland, Queensland-based Quandamooka artist Megan Cope, Melbourne performance artist Stelarc, Ballarat-born David Noonan and Sydney’s Mike Parr, who grabbed headlines last year with a Dark Mofo work that saw him buried beneath a Hobart street.

Abdul Abdullah, Australia, born 1986, Understudy, 2019, Australia, mixed media, dimensions variable; Courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery
Abdul Abdullah, Australia, born 1986, Understudy, 2019, Australia, mixed media, dimensions variable; Courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery

The program also sees the return of Sydney-via-Perth artist Abdul Abdullah and Garry Stewart and Australian Dance Theatre to the Biennial, both of whom were featured in 2016’s Magic Object. South Australian artists named in the announcement include Woomera-born glass artist Yhonnie Scarce, sculptors Julia Robinson and Aldo Iacobelli, painter and ceramicist Mark Valenzuela. Also on show will be work from 24-year-old Adelaide-based artist Pierre Mukeba, whose larger than life painting Ride To Church was recently was voted people’s favourite in the 2019 Ramsay Art Prize.

“The exhibition title hints at a double narrative which also resonates through the multiple meanings of ‘theatre’,” Robb explains. “An operating ‘theatre’ is a room in which to examine as well as heal; it is also a ‘theatre’ of war, a site of conflict where clashes between nations and ideologies play out all too frequently, but a theatre is also an arena – a social space in which to observe and be observed.”

Pierre Mukeba with Ride To Church (Photo: Saul Steed)
Pierre Mukeba with Ride To Church (Photo: Saul Steed)

Once again based at the Art Gallery of South Australia and its partner venue the Museum of Economic Botany, the 2020 Adelaide Festival program holds particular significance as the Adelaide Biennial celebrates its 30th anniversary.

“The Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art has had an extraordinary impact over its 30 years in existence,” AGSA director Rhana Devenport says of the milestone. “The breadth of artistic practice as well as urgency and complexity of ideas explored through this exhibition play a crucial role in the national and international visual art conversation.”

2020 Adelaide Biennial artists

Abdul Abdullah (NSW)
Mike Bianco (WA)
Polly Borland (VIC)
Michael Candy (QLD)
Megan Cope (VIC)
Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari (WA)
Julian Day (NSW)
Karla Dickens (NSW)
Mikala Dwyer (VIC)
Brent Harris (VIC)
Aldo Iacobelli (SA)
Pierre Mukeba (SA)
David Noonan (VIC)
Mike Parr (NSW)
Julia Robinson (SA)
Yhonnie Scarce (SA/VIC)
Garry Stewart and Australian Dance Theatre (SA)
Stelarc (VIC)
Kynan Tan (NSW)
Mark Valenzuela (SA)
Willoh S. Weiland (TAS)
Judith Wright (QLD)

2020 Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres
29 February –  8 June 202
artgallery.sa.gov.au

Header image:
Julia Robinson, Australia, born 1981, Sweet Belly, 2019, Adelaide, gourd, silk, thread, pins, brass, gold plating, steel, mixed media, 130.0 x 100.0 x 50.0; Courtesy the artist and Hugo Michell Gallery (Photo: Sam Roberts)

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