The exhibition program, launched today, will open in March with the previously announced 2022 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Free/State – curated by Sebastian Goldspink and featuring work by 24 contemporary artists from across the country.

The following month, Gallery 16 in the Melrose Wing will be transformed through the arrival of Yayoi Kusama’s THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKINS DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS, which is coming to Adelaide from the National Gallery of Australia and will be at the AGSA for a full year.

Described as an infinity mirror room, the installation is a bright yellow room overrun with black polkadots at the centre of which is a mirrored box containing illuminated pumpkin sculptures. The result is a rich optical illusion, which gallery director Rhana Devenport says creates a sensation of infinite space and colour.

“Yayoi Kusama is one of the most loved and admired artists living in the world today,” Devenport tells InReview.

“From a very young age, she experienced hallucinations… she transposed her own hallucinations and visual challenges into her artwork and became an explosive member of the art world in New York.”

After living in the US for many years, Kusama ­– now aged in her 90s ­– returned to Japan in 1973 and is renowned for her extraordinary installations, abstract paintings and other works.

“Her father was a seed merchant, so pumpkins and flowers have always been a recurring motif for her,” Devenport explains.

THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKINS DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS, by Yayoi Kusama, 2017, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nusantara (Museum MACAN); © Yayoi Kusama, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/ Shanghai.

Japanese art will also be showcased in Pure Form, an exhibition of sculptural ceramics created in Japan from the 1950s to the present that will run from May 21 until November 6. Pure Form will feature around 70 works by 45 artists from the post-war period, which saw the emergence of an avant-garde group calls Sōdeisha (“Crawling Through Mud Association”).

“It’s from this point in the late 1940s, 1950s that we see the emergence of objects instead of wares for use ­– massive, spectacular wares of art, free from the potter’s wheel, free from conventions and hierarchies of taste which had existed for hundreds of years in Japan,” says Russell Kelty, the AGSA’s associate curator, Asian art.

Across winter, the gallery will present two ticketed exhibitions: Robert Wilson: Moving portraits and Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize.

Archie 100, developed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and curated by Natalie Wilson, celebrates the centenary of the annual portrait prize through a diverse collection of 100 portraits selected from across the past 100 years. It includes works by artists such Adelaide-born Nora Heysen (who in 1938 became the first woman to win the prize) and Vincent Namatjira (the first Indigenous artist to win the prize, in 2020, with his portrait of footballer Adam Goodes), as well as William Dobell, Wendy Sharpe and Ben Quilty.

“Natalie has really wanted to, she said, revise art history through this process,” Elle Freak, AGSA associate curator, Australian paintings and sculpture, told this morning’s launch, acknowledging that the Archibald has attracted plenty of controversy over the years.

“She has in particular wanted to bring forward works by women artists, who actually represent a third of all Archibald finalists’ works, even though only 10 women have only won the prize throughout its history.”

Robert Wilson’s portrait of Isabella Rossellini, 2005, HD video; music by Henri Rene and His Orchestra; Courtesy RW Work Ltd.

Portraits of a different type will be presented in the Robert Wilson exhibition, which features a collection of the American theatre director and visual artist’s video portraits of subjects ranging from celebrities ­– such as Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt, Isabella Rossellini, Robert Downey Jr and Winona Ryder ­– to lesser-known people including poets, singers and dancers, as well as animals and birds.

Devenport says Wilson created the media of video portraiture in the 1970s, when he was commissioned to work with a public broadcasting station in the United States. His portraits, created using high-definition video, are each three or four minutes long and play in a perpetual loop.

The result, Devenport tells InReview, is “strange and beautiful and captivating”: “He brings all the aspects of the theatre – stage, lighting, costumes – into these portraits. They’re really quite extraordinary.”

By presenting Archie 100 at the same time as Wilson’s video portraits (one ticket will offer entry to both exhibitions), the gallery will give visitors an opportunity to reflect on how portraiture has changed over time.

“We’ve got this incredible juxtaposition of the power of painting with this very sophisticated use of videos…  there’s this lovely interplay between the two.”

One of the final exhibitions opening at the AGSA in 2022 will be Nalini Malani: Gamepieces, the first major Australian survey of work by one of India’s foremost contemporary artists. It will be anchored by Gamepieces ­– a four-channel video, shadow play installation with rotating painted cylinders, which is owned by the gallery – and include other works dating back to 1970.

Details of all 2022 exhibitions can be found on the Art Gallery of SA website.

Installation view: Gamepieces by Nalini Malani, 2015, MoMA, New York.

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