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50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects are reimagined in a new survey exhibition by Michael Landy

'Making Art Public: 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects' premiering at the Art Gallery of New South Wales celebrates one of the world’s most ambitious public art initiatives

Drawing for Kaldor Public Art Project 35: Michael Landy Mate. What’s this sh**t? 2019

Wednesday 19 June, 2019

Fifty years ago the cultural landscape of Australia was transformed forever with the staging of Wrapped Coast – one million square feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia (1969) by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. It is considered a milestone international public art project and is one of 34 Kaldor Public Art Projects that will be surveyed in the major exhibition Making art public: 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Part of a year-long celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Kaldor Public Art Projects, Making art public is created by acclaimed British artist and Kaldor Public Art Projects alumnus Michael Landy. Reflecting on half a century of ground-breaking art, Landy employs artworks, archival materials, performance, audience participation and reprisals of elements of past projects to revisit some of the most significant public artworks ever presented in Australia. A billboard-sized drawing by Landy referencing all 34 projects will welcome visitors into the exhibition.

Making art public is the 35th Kaldor Public Art Project and the second time Landy has been commisioned for a project.

John Kaldor AO, director of Kaldor Public Art Projects, met Landy in London in 2001 when the artist famously destroyed his personal belongings in the monumental performance work, Break Down. Kaldor invited Landy to produce a work in Australia and a decade later Acts of kindness (2011) was realised as the 24th Kaldor Public Art Project.

In 2018 Kaldor approached Landy again, this time with an invitation to develop a concept for the 50th anniversary exhibition of Kaldor Public Art Projects. Landy said that while Making art public takes inspiration from the extensive archives of Kaldor Public Art Projects, he has not approached the exhibition from an archivist’s perspective.

“Instead of reproducing the experience of witnessing each of the 34 Kaldor Public Art Projects, this exhibition takes form in what is left behind – the remnants that are stored and archived. My role in Making art public is to animate these remnants by treating them as physical material to sculpt with,” said Landy.

Dr Michael Brand, director of the Art Gallery of NSW, said the exhibition draws on the ambitious achievements of the 34 preceding artist commissions.

“The first intiative of its type anywhere in the world, Kaldor Public Art Projects has continued to redefine the boundaries for public art in the 20th and 21st century by assisting contemporary artists with the realisation of projects that are truly the stuff of their dreams,” Brand said.

Brand said Kaldor Public Art Projects is responsible for so many breakthrough moments due to John Kaldor’s determination to facilitate the vision of commissioned artists. “Whether it’s the 60,000 cascading plants in Jeff Koons’ monolithic Puppy (1996); Gilbert & George singing for five hours a day in the Art Gallery of NSW entrance court; the 20,000 square metres of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden transformed by Jonathan Jones’ installation of 15,000 gypsum shields or the large-scale participatory performance of Marina Abramović ; John Kaldor and Kaldor Public Art Projects have supported the staging of transformational works of public art.”

John Kaldor AO said that Making art public is a culmination of the 50th anniversary celebrations, following the launch of the Kaldor Public Art Projects Living Archives and the documentary It all started with a stale sandwich, which premiered at the 2019 Sydney Film Festival.

“Christo once said to me that a project is a success when it is larger than the imagination. This idea continues to be my motivation in supporting the creative processes of artists,” Kaldor said.

“I’ve always wanted to share my love of contemporary art with the public. It’s very rewarding to reflect on all our past projects and showcase our 35th project. Doing so reminds us of the significance of contemporary art in our community. We have always sought to awaken interest in contemporary art by offering free, ground-breaking experiences for the public.

“Michael Landy’s vision for Marking art public creates fresh opportunities for reflection and inspiration. I hope that visitors will enjoy experiencing each project in a new light or even discover our projects for the first time,” Kaldor added.

Nicholas Chambers, Art Gallery of NSW coordinating curator for Making art public, said Michael Landy’s drawing for the exhibition provides insight into the artist’s approach.

“A kind of mental map or guide, Landy’s drawing prepares audiences for an imaginative, non-linear and surprising response to the history of Kaldor Public Art Projects. Despite the dramatic shifts in scale between the 34 artist projects, Landy has reimagined each in the uniformly proportioned architecture of an oversized archive box,” said Chambers.

“Visitors will encounter very different experiences from box to box, project to project. Landy’s interpretation of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Coast, for example, dives deep into the archives; while projects such as Marina Abramović’s residency or his own Acts of kindness use the internal walls of the archive box to reprise performative elements that invite audience participation.

“Others work differently within the architectural parameters: Gilbert & George’s archive box is completely sealed off and plays a recording of their original endurance performance of the song ‘Underneath the arches’, whereas Jonathan Jones’ barrangal dyara (skin and bones) is represented by a new configuration of a group of the artist’s gypsum shields, which were donated to the Gallery by John Kaldor and the artist after the project,” said Chambers.

Making art public: 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects at the Art Gallery of NSW will be accompanied by an extensive series of public programs throughout the five months of the exhibition. Highlights include Art After Hours, an international curators’ panel and the Living Archives study sessions.

Art After Hours: Unwrapping 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects
Art After Hours will dedicate three nights in September to exploring the creativity and the power of art in a series of talks and live musical performances. The series features artist Michael Landy in conversation with exhibition curator Nicholas Chambers; a panel discussion with Australian artists Mike Parr, Imants Tillers and Ken Unsworth; and concludes with a Living Archives story swap hosted by Chris Taylor from The Chaser.

International Curators’ Panel: Making art public
Bringing together Jessica Morgan, director, Dia Art Foundation, New York; Nicholas Baume, director and chief curator, Public Art Fund, New York, and James Lingwood, co-director, Artangel, London; the special curators’ panel will be hosted by Maud Page, deputy director and director of collections at the Art Gallery of NSW. Reflecting on the legacy of Kaldor Public Art Projects as the world’s first public art organisation and the ongoing role of public art, the discussion will draw on each curators’ unique experience in this realm.

Living Archives study sessions
Held monthly at the Art Gallery of NSW during the Making art public exhibition, these intimate sessions provide unique access to the rich repository of material in the Kaldor Public Art Projects archives. Each study group is led by experienced archivists and members of the Living Archives community and focuses on a different Kaldor Public Art Project; they reveal the people and stories behind the archival objects and examine the lasting legacy of temporary art projects.

Making art public: 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects is a collaboration between Kaldor Public Art Projects and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

On view
7 Sep 2019 – 16 Feb 2020
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney


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