The Museum of Contemporary Art has been hosting its Artbar series since 2012, offering an unconventional way to visit and view art. Guest curators turn the gallery into a vibrant piece of performance art by bringing exhibitions, music and live acts together.
"The energy the artists create and share can transform spaces and bring the museum to life," says Melbourne artist Kate Beynon, who is responsible for pulling together the first Artbar event for 2018. Beynon has held over 25 solo exhibitions and is currently the MCA’s Jackson Bella Room commissioned artist.
The Bella Room, an immersive installation in the Learning Centre – which Beynon has filled with more than 600 plush good luck charms inspired by her mixed Chinese and Welsh heritage – is rarely open to the general public, but audiences will be able to explore the room during her Artbar.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg for Friday January 19 however, Beynon has also organised: Afro Brazilian music performed by Oyobi with QVLN; dancehall lessons with Dance Central; a panel discussion with artists whose work deals with cultural identity; video works by Megan Cope, Deborah Kelly, and Sangeeta Sandrasegar; and rooftop projections designed by Beynon, Mike Pablo and Marnie Dean.
Ethical fashion brand The Social Outfit has also collaborated with Beynon on a print for a capsule collection they will launch on the night with a sewing performance, pop-up store, and conversation asking, “Who makes your clothes?” The collection will then be available in-store and online. Jeweller Haus of Dizzy will also be selling her designs.
On the MCA’s roof terrace, you can grab drinks and listen to DJ Jimmy James (of the Strictly Vinyl crew) spin tunes, as projections are thrown onto the terrace.
Beynon, who was born in Hong Kong and arrived in Australia from the UK in 1974, draws on the tapestry of her mixed heritage as well as a range of traditional and contemporary influences, including fashion, comics and her grandfather’s scroll paintings.
When asked if there was any pushback on her becoming an artist (both her parents are doctors and her maternal Chinese grandfather, a dentist who loved to paint), she said: “There was definitely plenty of concern initially ... Practising as an artist has had many ups and downs, but I’ve been lucky my family and friends have been a huge support in many ways. And having the opportunity to work with the MCA both on the Bella Room and Artbar have been major ‘ups’.”
The opening night, titled Spirits of the Mixt, has been shaped by Beynon’s recent PhD research into mixture and its possibilities. She told Broadsheet: “It’s a chance to think about mixture in Australia (and the world) and the potential of the arts for positive social change – the importance of respect and support for indigenous rights, people of colour from migrant and refugee backgrounds, and women artists.
“It’s also about hope for the present and future, as well as getting immersed in a huge, inspiring party.”
Guests can expect a celebration of “mixture” of identity (both in this world and other dimensions), transformations, hybridity, and all in-between states.
Tickets include entry to Pipilotti Rist's Sip My Ocean.