|Tomorrow the Art Gallery of New South Wales will open the first survey in Australia by visionary Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), whose remarkable mystical paintings bring new perspectives to the narratives of modern art and have become an international sensation.
Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings brings these works to the Asia-Pacific region for the first time. The exhibition presents over 120 works, from early drawings to the artist’s monumental paintings, late watercolours and notebooks. Spanning more than four decades of the artist’s practice, this comprehensive exhibition includes works ranging from the 1890s to 1941. Many of her most renowned paintings are featured, as well as others that are little known.
The exhibition is curated by independent curator Sue Cramer and was developed in collaboration with Art Gallery of NSW senior curator of modern and contemporary international art Nicholas Chambers.
When af Klint began creating her ambitious new works in 1906, no one had seen paintings like hers before – so monumental in scale, with such radiant colour combinations, enigmatic symbols and other-worldly shapes. Influenced by the spiritualist practices of her time, af Klint believed that her paintings contained messages for humanity communicated to her through the visions she received from spirits.
Stored away and scarcely known for decades, the startling re-discovery of af Klint’s “secret paintings” has captured the imagination of contemporary audiences, with a 2019 exhibition of her work at the Guggenheim Museum breaking attendance records and taking New York by storm.
Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings is supported by the NSW Government through Destination NSW and presented with the cooperation of The Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm in association with Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne and major digital sponsor, EY.
Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the opening of the Australian exclusive is an important milestone and an exciting feature of the state’s cultural calendar.
‘We are very proud to be supporting the Art Gallery of NSW to host the state’s very first international art exhibition at a State gallery since the onset of the pandemic, and it is a sign that Sydney and NSW is moving forward, we’re open for business and welcoming visitors to enjoy our city’s cultural offerings and hospitality,’ Mr Ayres said.
‘Investing in world-class events is a key pillar in achieving the NSW Government’s goal for NSW to be the premier visitor economy in the Asia-Pacific and Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings will play an important role in attracting visitors and Sydneysiders to the heart of our Harbour City.
‘It’s no small feat to stage an international exhibition of this calibre in the current context, but it is hugely worthwhile. This must-see exhibition will bring radiant colour and inspiration to Sydney this winter and be the envy of other cities globally.’
Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said: ‘We are thrilled that the first international art exhibition to return to the Art Gallery since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our exhibition schedules is the remarkable work of the pioneering female artist Hilma af Klint. Her exploration of spiritualism, science and nature presents a timely message for Australian audiences, particularly as we continue to face challenges as a result of the global pandemic.
‘This exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover the extraordinary artistic achievements of an artist whose re-discovered work is now captivating audiences around the world and prompting museums to question art history narratives.’