Do you plan your month around Art Bar, have already seen Chuck (up) Close or were one of the first to hashtag the new Sangeeta Sandrasegar work on the sculpture terrace? Think you know your MCA? Be prepared to dive deeper. This month a pop-up exhibition, Contemporary’s Contemporaries, reveals the talents behind the clean, white walls is celebrating the creative voices that make every visit to the gallery pleasure.
“Working at the museum you’re part of a family,” says MCA host Elyse Goldfinch. “We really wanted to bring that sense into one space and celebrate all departments. We don’t all get to connect with everyone – I don't always get to have long conversations with the people in marketing, for example, but something like this really helps to bring those conversations together.”
Goldfinch is talking about the MCA’s yearly staff show, of which she is one of three curators. It features more than 50 artists, some of whom – such as Liam Benson, Ella Condon, co-curator Eloise Cato and collective The Parcel – are well established. The exhibition is not only an opportunity for emerging Sydney artists to muscle in on the MCA’s influential conversation, it also makes a bold statement: “this is who we are” – shattering any stereotype of the cold museum-worker along the way. Not that the MCA has ever to worry about that.
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“It lets us see the work of our co-workers and connections between their practice, ideas or concepts and their materials. And because these are people you work with, its nice to see a completely different side of them – this artistic spectrum that you wouldn’t see otherwise,” says Goldfinch.
With the common thread being their workplace, the show inadvertently explores how the day job affects an artist’s practice – from collaborations and influences, to technical know-how. “A huge group of artists are actually installers at the museum as well,” Goldfinch points out as an example. “You’ll find that their works are more installation-based or more technical. So you can see how their practice is hinged to their work.” And beyond the MCA-stamped pay-cheque ties? “There is a sense of collaboration,” she says. “Curatorially, we were astounded by the connections between some people’s work – in duality, dialogue and materials. We have curated it to make sure those works are in conversation with each other.” Reoccurring themes, she says, include the transformation of time and space, taking a breath, as well as ideas of materiality and scale.
During the show the space will also host talks, workshops and weekly events, so visitors can get to know the artists and purchase works directly. “It’s wonderful to have the support of the museum and we wanted to keep it at a level where people on the street can see it’s a gallery space. But for us, it really is a community.”
Contemporary’s Contemporaries is open 10am to 5pm until December 19 at 140 George Street, The Rocks.