Snaps of lightning strikes on art museum’s 2024 slate

Liz Hobday |

Photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work is the focus of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s 2024 program.
Photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work is the focus of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s 2024 program.

A major retrospective spanning half a century of art by internationally acclaimed photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto is the centrepiece of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s 2024 program.

The Japanese photographer and architect has spent decades exploring concepts of time and transience, conducting experiments such as generating and photographing lightning in his studio.

“It’s going to be such an incredible show, I think it will blow people’s minds … I really believe that there is something in his work that will interest everyone,” Museum director Suzanne Cotter told AAP.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine features more than 100 artworks, making it the largest exhibition of the artist’s career so far.

Other highlights include a major survey by Melbourne artist Nicholas Mangan that includes his ongoing project, Core-Coralations, a coral sculpture and video work about the problems facing the Great Barrier Reef.

His 3D-printed sculpture and video series Termite Economies also features, based on an anecdote that the CSIRO once researched termites in the hope they might lead humans to gold deposits.

Mangan is known for embedding his subject matter into his artworks, such as his termite sculptures built in part from dirt, and the solar-powered film Ancient Lights, which looks at our relationship to the sun.

Nicholas Mangan's 2018 artwork
Nicholas Mangan’s 2018 artwork Termite Economies: Phase 1 (detail). (HANDOUT/MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORTARY ART)

Influential Australian feminist artist Julie Rrap will unveil a new photographic work to be shown alongside her landmark 1982 installation Disclosures: A Photographic Construct.

Her recent $100,000 sculpture commission SOMOS (Standing On My Own Shoulders) unveiled at the Melbourne Art Fair earlier in February, will also go on display at the Museum.

Australian artist Julie Rrap (left)
Australian artist Julie Rrap next to her life-size sculpture SOMOS (Standing On My Own Shoulders). (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

The Museum is also replacing its current foyer mural by Vincent Namatjira with a new commission by Hayv Kahraman, an Iraqi-American-Swedish artist of Kurdish descent, as part of the Biennale of Sydney in March.

Her painting, on multiple canvases that will be affixed to the wall, is currently being completed, and Cotter said the biennale will serve as a welcome introduction to her work for many in Australia.

“This is what the biennale does, it introduces the work of artists who actually have quite established careers, but because of our distance they just haven’t had a chance to have their work shown,” she said.

Later in the year, critically acclaimed British artist Isaac Julien will present a multi-channel film work across five screens, titled Once Again … (Statues Never Die). 

The film imagines a conversation between a prominent American art collector and the philosopher Alain Locke, about the value and place of African art in western society.

The Museum, which will see its 20 millionth visitor in 2024, has launched the year’s program as it reviews its financial sustainability.

The contemporary art attraction on Sydney Harbour is currently free, but Cotter has floated the idea of entry fees as one way of remaining financially viable.

While accessibility is central to the remit of the institution, it’s important to make people aware of the financial realities the Museum is facing, said Cotter.

“I think the scale of the work that we do and the scale and ambition of the program suggests that we are as well funded as some of the largest state institutions,” she said.

In 2024 the Museum will also launch a three-year regional tour of Primavera: Young Australian Artists from July, followed by a national tour of Maria Fernanda Cardoso: Spiders of Paradise, a photographic series featuring the tiny Australian Maratus spider.