18th Sydney Biennale: From the perspective of those not quite in tune

  1. This post is a collection of critical voices about the 18th Sydney Biennale. It presents an alternative perspective from overwhelming media reports without making judgements and was intended as a researched resource.

    Jonathon Jones work at Tunnel 1, Cockatoo Island, 18th Sydney Biennale. Photo MingyueZ

    The 18th Sydney Biennale is half way through. It is now a hot topic in and beyond Sydney with massive media report, reviews and critiques, most positive. However there are also a handful of contradictory voices concerning the curatorial practice, among them are those from high-profile critics and media reviewers of contemporary art world home and abroad. What grounds do they base their arguments on? Are they valid? This post looks into the depth of those intellectual commentaries and presents a story just as it is.You are encourage to click into the links I collected here to have an investigative look and contribute to the discussion! Please also take note that this will be a growing collection and will run updates toward the end of the 18th Sydney Biennale.

  2. Sydney Morning Herald art critic John McDonald questioned the depth of the curatorial concept but gave much credit to the works themselves. “Although this title (“all our relations”) may conjure up thoughts of those relatives you see only on  especial occasions such as weddings or funerals, the curatorial logic is slightly more profound.”

  3. Christopher Allen of The Australian was especially critical, stating that 18th Sydney Biennale makes true claims for being “clichés with which art is constantly marketed”. “For all the assertions that a radically new model is being presented, we find  ourselves wading through the familiar pseudo-theoretical discursive swamp known as artspeak.”

  4. “The artwork on show at Cockatoo Island for the 18th Biennale of Sydney is at times thought-provoking but more often simply entertaining,” writes Melbourne-based ABC Arts reviewer Eve Sullivan.

  5. Art Radar Asia, an independent online art journal on contemporary Asian art news questioned the inclusion of Chinese artists’ works in the 18th Sydney Biennale, which seemed overwhelming relying on Sydney’s White Rabbit collection.

  6. Sydney Morning Herald reviewer Dylan Rainforth wrote “The results (of the works) are varied.” He questioned the “scrap-collector aesthetic” and “conceptual depth” of
    some of the works.

  7. After talking with the curators, Nicholas Forrest from ARTINFO Australia commented “the whole affair seems a little sterile, and too many of the works seem overly refined and perhaps a little too planned.” “An overabundance of grand gestures also gives the impression that the curators were perhaps trying a bit too hard to please the audience instead of attempting to challenge them.”

  8. Doug Hall of the Australian Financial Review criticized the curatorial statement. “But the wordiness and weighting of their blustering hyperbole is exhausting as it collapses under the weight of its cumbersome expression (did they resist editorial intervention?). Their unilateral declarations deal with the obvious, are often unoriginal, plainly wrong, or highly contestable.” And the works are “thoughtfully restrained” and “conservative”.


    Curated by Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster, the 18th Biennale of Sydney opened on 27 June with 220 works by 101 artists from 44 countries. According to the curatorial statement, the theme “All Our Relations” looks at “our often overlooked relationships with others and with our common world. ” and proposes a new connective model as a suggested solution in face of contemporary challenges. Spread across five venues including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the newly renovated Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Cockatoo Island, Pier 2/3  and Carriageworks, the exhibitions will until 16 September 2012.  Launched in 1973, Sydney Biennale is one of the longest running recurrent international contemporary art show in the world.

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