Not One, But Two Matisse Exhibitions Are Now Set to Open at the Art Gallery of NSW

matisse art gallery nsw

Fantastic news for art lovers — in addition to the exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, which opens on 20 November 2021 — the Art Gallery of New South Wales has also announced another event dedicated to the prolific post-impressionist master.

Matisse Alive, a free gallery-wide festival of Matisse, will open on October 23 and feature vital new work, participatory projects, dazzling textiles, and vibrant displays of art from the collection. The exhibition offers visitors a unique chance to explore the life, art and influence of one of the world’s most celebrated artists.

Flooding the Art Gallery with colour and energy, this program of art, music, performance and community celebrates Matisse’s art as an inspiration, point of orientation and focus of dialogue for artists today.

At the heart of Matisse Alive are four new artist projects by leading artists Nina Chanel Abney (US), Sally Smart (Australia), Angela Tiatia (Sāmoa/Australia) and Robin White (NZ) that present contemporary perspectives on this ‘modern master’ and focus especially on his imagining of the Pacific.

In her project Framily Ties, New York artist Abney creates visions of contemporary American life using an inimitable visual language that draws on the decisive shapes and clarion colour of Matisse’s cut-outs. Alongside tender collage portraits of friends in domestic settings, Abney has responded to Matisse’s favoured theme of the dance, creating mural-like works, at once celebratory and edgy, in which syncopated bodies shift shape, ethnicity and sexual identity.

Meanwhile, Sydney artist Tiatia draws on inspiration garnered on her recent research trip to Tahiti to present The Pearl, an immersive video work that addresses the history of the colonising of the female body in Polynesia to find a new way of imagining a ‘Pacific Venus’. In this work, Tiatia references Matisse’s sculpture Venus in a shell 1930 and the culture of the Pacific Islands that inspired the artist.

Melbourne artist Smart, inspired by Matisse’s cutouts, will present a large-scale multimedia installation of collaged fabrics that continues her long-term investigation into female subjectivity. In The Artist’s House, Smart points to the physical labour that takes place within her own and Matisse’s studios, making a space for the women who helped him make his work.

And finally, White presents Vaiola, a monumental series of intricately patterned tapa (ngatu and masi) works created in collaboration with Ebonie Fifita. This powerful contemporary Pacific response features symbolic objects in domestic interiors which dramatise imagined encounters between Matisse and figures from the world of the Asia-Pacific.

The exhibition also includes two new collection displays showcasing a vibrant array of 20th and 21st century works from the Art Gallery of NSW Australian and international art collection. Living Space, a presentation of more than 70 works from the collection, is inspired by Matisse’s vision of domestic spaces and objects, while the John Kaldor Family Hall features a celebratory display of abstract works inspired by Matisse’s radiant colour sense and dynamic use of form.

A series of public programs will accompany Matisse Alive, including a series of performances featuring community singers and musicians, created in collaboration with Cook Islands community leader Margaret Nekeare-Cowan.

The exhibition will run from 23 October 2021 to 3 April 2022 and entry is free. Visit the official Art Gallery of New South Wales website for more information.

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