The National Gallery of Victoria has revealed the line-up for its first ever NGV Triennial – a sprawling global odyssey of contemporary art, design and architecture covering painting, photography, sculpture, tapestry, performance, fashion, robotics and more. It will open in December this year.

The NGV’s summer blockbusters are always huge. The last couple of years have seen the double-header of Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol, and the sublime David Hockney show (which is now entering its last two weeks). But the triennial will be even bigger, encompassing all four floors of NGV International. The NGV first announced it would do this three years ago and it’s taken this long to pull it together.

The work of 60 international and local artists and designers – at various stages of their careers – from more than 30 countries will be featured in the free exhibition. It’s an excitingly diverse line-up, and the NGV has commissioned 20 large-scale pieces specially for the survey.

One of those will be by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (who currently has a dazzling, dream-like installation at MONA). For the triennial, she is creating an interactive installation in which visitors will enter a room and then, in the NGV’s words, “obliterate” it with flowers. Another is a video work by South Africa’s Candice Breitz, in which Hollywood stars including Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore tell the personal stories of six refugees.

Chinese haute couturier Guo Pei (she designed Rihanna’s canary-yellow Met Ball gown) is sending a number of her extravagant pieces, and Sissel Tolaas, a Norwegian chemist, researcher and odor theorist (she has a personal library of 7000 smells) is creating a “scent of Melbourne”.

Melbourne-born, UK-based hyper-realist sculptor Ron Mueck is contributing 100 giant human skulls – his largest ever piece. Irish filmmaker Richard Mosse will return to the NGV for the first time since his extraordinary 2015 piece The Enclave showed there. This time he is turning his eye to Syria and the refugee crisis.

Australians, including painter and Archibald-prize winner Ben Quilty and multi-media artist Reko Rennie, have also been named in the line-up.

The triennial is an excuse for the gallery to fill in a few gaps in its collection, so expect work from underrepresented areas such as Africa, South America and the Middle East.

The NGV Triennial opens on December 15. For the full list of artists and designers, visit the gallery’s Triennial hub.

This article was updated on February 27.