Interventionist art captures the NGA foyer

Sarah Contos, nostalgic 1980s and 1920s imagery

THE National Gallery of Australia foyer looks different.

The NGA has partnered with the Balnaves Foundation to commission an annual series of “intervention” art, this time  through large-scale disruptive artworks by Sarah Contos along with virtual reality by Jess Johnson and Simon Ward.

Jaklyn Babington, senior curator of Contemporary Art at the gallery, says: “By installing work in unexpected spaces as Contos does, or reconceiving of space itself as malleable and full of ‘portals’ as Johnson and Ward have, these artists are creating works that will alter the atmosphere of the NGA.”

Sarah Contos work ‘intervenes.’

It does. A huge suspension work by Contos that is “more or less like a mobile,” as she says, is already dominating the NGA foyer with nostalgic 1980s and 1920s imagery.

Contos recent told “CityNews” that she has wanted to achieve “a kind of DIY sensibility”, with objects in her giant mobile that were mostly handmade, or sources from the “cinematic tripe” that she loves, with a special focus on Gloria’s Swanson role as Norma Desmond in 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard”.

While most people take  Swanson and screen “vamp” Theda Bara to be the stuff of legend, both were human beings who  just wanted to live. Contos said she hoped her installation would convey something  of this while also ‘”catching people completely unawares”.

In Babington’s view, “Sarah has ‘nailed’ the use of this huge space”.

Johnson and Ward have created the first virtual reality interactive world for the national collection, described by Johnson as “the most ambitious work we’ve ever undertaken”.

Naturally Hamish Balnaves, general manager of the Balnaves Foundation, has warmly applauded the new works.

Contos’ work will hang in the NGA Foyer until September 24, while Johnson and Ward’s work may be seen in the Contemporary Galleries until August 26. Both free to view.


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