The 20th Biennale of Sydney

The 20th Biennale of Sydney officially opens to the public today (Friday the 18th of March) before running for almost 3 months at locations across the city. Titled “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed”, the country’s largest contemporary visual arts event showcases the work of 83 artists from 35 nations.


Every two years the event takes over the city, with art galleries and exhibition centres becoming “Embassies of Thought”. The 20th instalment of the city-wide art showcase has been curated by Artistic Director Stephanie Rosenthal, who was proud to comment that more than half of this year’s exhibition pieces were specially commissioned for the event. The title of the event was inspired bu William Gibson, a science fiction author who believes that technology has already eclipsed what we imagined the future to be. Rosenthal says that the title (and event) “explores how the common distinction between the virtual and the physical has become more elusive.”


Spread across different locations, galleries and ‘in-between’ spaces, the different ‘Embassies’ of the Biennale encourage different trains of thought, with each location providing a unique perspective on a world with an ever-changing societal landscape. The seven embassies are: Cockatoo Island (Embassy of the Real); the Art Gallery of NSW (Embassy of Spirits); Carriageworks (Embassy of Disappearance); Artspace (Embassy of Non-Participation); the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (Embassy of Translation); Mortuary Station (Embassy of Transition) and a moveable bookshop (Embassy of Stanislaw Lem).


Having only arrived in Sydney last September, Rosenthal was keen as someone new to the city to broaden even a long time local’s eyes to the treasures the surrounding area has to offer. For this reason, emphasis has been placed on what Rosenthal describes as ‘in-between’ spaces, the nooks, crannies and cracks in the city, whereby something new and exciting may be discovered.


One of the newest additions to the Biennale is the greater focus on Sydney’s inner west, with more than one-third of the artworks to be showcased around the area. Additionally, of the 83 artists exhibiting their work, 14 are Australian, a testament to the rising calibre of the Australian contemporary art scene.

Performance will be an integral part of the 3 month event, with lectures, workshops, gatherings, music, reading groups and other performances taking place at each embassy by the artists.


Since it’s inception in 1973, the Biennale has since become one the world’s leading art events, recognised globally for presenting original, provocative art. The 19th Biennale witnessed over 600,000+ visitors attend, affirming the events place in Sydney’s cultural calendar.

The 20th Biennale of Sydney runs from March 18th to June 5th 2016 at various locations.

Entry is free to the public.

The full event program is available from

– Harry Russell

Harry Russell is a law student from Sydney who enjoys good music, good movies, good books and good company.