We are cruising along under the Sydney Harbour Bridge enroute to Cockatoo Island, one of those little known yet integral parts of Sydney’s history. A top hat shaped island, once a penal colony, shipyard, power station and naval base, is now home to some of Sydney’s best camping, and of course, a key venue for the Biennale of Sydney. Come March 2016, the Biennale of Sydney will celebrate its 20th instalment and its fifth at Cockatoo Island.
From Art Tours’ first visit in 2008 where the island was very much in the same state as when the navy walked out in 1982, to our most recent visit, a lot has changed and been cleaned up, yet the art has always remained as inspiring, engaging and challenging as ever.
The Biennale of Sydney has been engaging and challenging art enthusiasts since the 1970s and on each of our visits it always changes. New venues are often added — such as the recent addition of Carriageworks in Redfern — and 2016 sees the addition of a new spot, Mortuary Station, while works have changed in size, shape and scale over time as material and technology have evolved.
New Zealand has always had one or two artists participate each time. Who can forget Peter Robinson’s amazing installation through Cockatoo Islands dilapidated machinery hall with miles of polystyrene foam chains? Or Tiffany Singh’s installation, also at Cockatoo Island, in another of the derelict spaces that enchanted with colour and sound once you had made your way through that very small door? It is symptomatic of the diverse biennale experience. There is a huge variety of work in all manner of locations including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Artspace and this year there are also in-between spaces across the city.
If you are visiting Sydney consider taking an extra day to visit some of the key dealer galleries throughout the city. Not always the easiest to get to, but always worth the effort, are galleries such as Roslyn Oxley9, Sarah Cottier Gallery and Anna Schwartz at Carriageworks, also The Sherman Foundation and Gallery 9 among many others.
Art Tours has been visiting the biennale since 2008 with Sue Gardiner, and always finds time to meet curators, artists and biennale insiders. This year will be no exception, and we look forward to our tour there in April. If you miss out this time we have plenty of other art-related tours in the pipeline over the next year or two including a focus on tours visiting all New Zealand’s regional galleries.
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