MCA — a Modernist triumph
Posted: 28 Jul 2012 | By: Jane Somerville
Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art re-opened its doors on 29 March to reveal a triumphant new $53 million redevelopment. With a streamlined entrance extending across both Circular Quay and The Rocks, and the gallery spaces renovated and extended, the results are a spacious and vastly improved building to showcase local and international contemporary art to over half a million visitors who visit the MCA each year.
The central component of the new wing is the National Centre for Creative Learning (NCCL), an education facility that encompasses a lecture theatre, seminar rooms and digital classrooms. The new facilities mean that the MCA can activate discussion of contemporary art in Sydney both through its in-house programs and collaborations with arts organisations and universities. The NCCL builds on the success of the MCA’s existing learning programs which engage more than 38,000 people each year. It is run by Heather Robertson, who brings her experience of engaging London’s broad range of audiences at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Modern in London. Robertson is keen to expand the boundaries of learning in Australia and the NCCL’s programs are designed to appeal to audiences of different ages and backgrounds.
In keeping with the digital age, the NCCL will develop novel ways of engaging with audiences in virtual space, reaching beyond the confines of the museum.
A key way to do this is through the works on display. The increased gallery space means a dedicated place for rotating displays of the MCA’s collection. The first show will include 150 works that have been acquired since the MCA was founded in 1989.
A number of artists have been involved in commissions for the redevelopment, such as Brook Andrew’s permanent work on the Circular Quay facade that acknowledges the colonial naval site under the new extension. The new sculpture terrace was unveiled with a new commission by Hany Armanious, Helen Eager’s large-scale wall drawing stretches across the museum entrance and Grant Stevens’ video work features the names of donors.
A key part of the NCCL is encouraging students to explore the sensory elements of art. The Jackson Bella Room, an interactive space for students with special learning needs, features a commission by Emily Floyd: a sculptural installation is inspired by Jean-François Millet’s famous painting The Gleaners (1857). It features large abstracted human figures and small wooden sculptures which can be handled and arranged by visitors. There are also tactile cushions scattered around the room with Braille lettering presenting poetic ideas and concepts. This work draws upon Floyd’s interest in participatory spaces and the conventions of literature while meeting the needs of those that will use the space.
To mark the opening day, the MCA presented the first showing in the Southern Hemisphere of Christian Marclay’s The Clock. This is an extraordinary work consisting of thousands of cinematic moments edited together into a twenty-four-hour film. It complements the first exhibition in the new gallery space appropriately titled Marking Time. This show features eleven contemporary artists: Edgar Arceneaux, Tatsuo Miyajima, Rivane Neuenschwander, Lindy Lee, Katie Paterson, Gulumbu Yunupingu, John Gerrard, Jim Campbell, Daniel Crooks and Tom Nicholson.
Images from top:
Facade of MCA new building, 2012.
Rebecca Baumann, Automated Colour Field, 2011, mixed media, MCA. ©The artist.
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