What does (art in) Western Australia look like right now? The View From Here, the reopening exhibition at the new Art Gallery of WA, has many excellent answers to this question. It could be various styles of graffiti that make up 100 Vandals, a multi-generational celebration of the divisive urban art form that features prints, sketches and an anti-graffiti government newspaper ad. It could be an oil painting immortalising the fire that destroyed Inglewood Bunnings. It could be a hot pink neon sign that reads “moorditj”, a Noongar word meaning “good”, “strong” or “awesome”, part of an audio-visual work exploring the physical effects of language on the body. It could be ’90s-era vintage sportswear emblazoned with designs representing the inner-northern suburb of Mirrabooka. Or it could be the family of 34 Adidas-attired cats dotted around the museum.
Tackling a variety of issues – ranging from accessibility and the patriarchy to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander welfare – the exhibition is a snapshot of contemporary arts in West Australian, with work from artists based here and further afield. Ian Strange, a Perth-born artist who calls New York home and is famous for redecorating houses, is the gallery’s guest artistic director. He’s been pivotal in bringing together the perspectives and pieces in The View From Here, representing the wide gaze of West Australian art (and, by extension, culture).
“It is important that in this major moment of renewal for the gallery, it’s not just about the building, but about the art and artists of WA and celebrating the diversity and incredible artistic talent that this state produces,” says Strange. “I am so excited for visitors to the gallery to see some of the world’s best art by Western Australian artists.”
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Other artists involved include Sarah Bahbah, a WA-raised, LA-based artist with over one million Instagram followers; artist and designer Tim Meakins, who’s created giant 3D-printed sculptures of “weightlifters, posers and grinning weights”; and Aboriginal artists John Prince Siddon, Tyrown Waigana and Sandra Hill, a survivor of the Stolen Generations. In total, the exhibition features more than 230 artists and 361 artworks, including 111 that were specially commissioned for the exhibition.
“The launch of the all-new AGWA is a major moment for West Australian arts and artists alike,” AGWA director Colin Walker said in a press release. “AGWA will be a champion of WA artists, and the reopening gives a celebration of our local talent and our unique view on the world from this special place.”
Apart from the new exhibition, the other major addition to the gallery is the new $10 million, 500-person rooftop space that features 360-degree views of the CBD skyline and a 34-metre-long, five-metre-tall mural from Minang/Noongar artist Christopher Pease. The rooftop bar is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 3pm, serving a menu of local beer, wines, cocktails and soft drinks – with the exception of two champagnes, all the drinks are West Australian – and small plates.