The Australian Biennale

Art Gallery Of New South Wales / Pier 213 / National Gallery Of Victoria

Biennales ordinarily offer a world picture in which local content looms large. Sydney’s is no different; it serves to update the country’s isolated art public, and to present local work in a larger context. As a national bicentennial event, this year’s event offered exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne, became the Australian Biennale, and boasted both a historical dimension and a regionalist perspective.

The show was titled “From the Southern Cross, a View of World Art 1940–1988,” and it included a wider range of works than previous Sydney Biennales. Without doubt, the show was stronger for its Matisse cut-out, Polynésie La Mer, 1946, for its Willem de Kooning Woman, 1950, and its Len Lye kinetic sculpture, Blade, 1962–76, yet the role of these and the other older works was less evident than the title suggests. A mere 40 of 240 total works were created more than three years ago; of those,

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