Vasily Kandinsky ‘Dominant curve’ April 1936, oil on canvas, 129.2 x 194.3 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim .Founding Collection, photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is presenting the blockbuster Sydney International Art Series 2023–24 exhibition, Kandinsky. The exhibition traces the remarkable career of one of the great innovators of European abstraction, Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and is the largest dedicated exhibition of the artist’s work to ever be seen in Australia.

Kandinsky has been developed with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, which is home to one of the world’s most important Kandinsky holdings. The exhibition is curated for Sydney by Megan Fontanella, curator of modern art and provenance at the Guggenheim Museum, with Jackie Dunn, senior curator of exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

jKandinsky was unwavering in his desire to uplift humanity and in his belief in art’s capacity to transform self and society. His story, ultimately one of hope and resilience, continues to resonate a century later. It has been my distinct pleasure to partner with the Art Gallery of New South Wales in bringing Kandinsky’s work to new generations in Australia,’ said Fontanella.

‘The majority of the paintings in this exhibition derive from the Guggenheim’s holdings in New York and together illuminate the foresight of its founders in assembling a comprehensive collection of Kandinsky’s modernist work.’

Featuring more than 50 works, Kandinsky presents some of the artist’s most recognisable paintings, including the early career masterpiece Blue Mountain (1908–09); as well as Dominant Curve (1936) and the monumental Composition 8 (1923), which Kandinsky regarded as the high point of his achievement. Many of the works in this exhibition will be displayed for the first time in Australia.

Kandinsky is proudly supported by the NSW Government through the Create NSW Blockbusters Funding initiative and by its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, as part of the Sydney International Art Series, bringing the world’s most outstanding exhibitions to Australia, exclusively to Sydney.

Minister for Arts, Music, Night-time Economy, Jobs and Tourism John Graham said: ‘This explosive collection of works, spanning the breadth of Kandinsky’s creative output, comes to Sydney as our government delivers this State’s first Arts, Culture and Creative Industries policy. The free-thinking spirit of Kandinsky and the Bauhaus a century ago, sets the perfect scene this summer to expand the cultural horizons of NSW.’

Within the exhibition there is an immersive family-friendly artist project by British-Indian-Australian artist Desmond Lazaro, which draws inspiration from the sacred geometries that interested KandinskyPoint and Line to Plane invites visitors to follow the path of a colourful labyrinth and create drawings using the shapes – circles, triangles and squares – that inspired Kandinsky.

Also there is the presentation alongside Kandinsky is the presentation of an exhibition of ‘spirit drawings’ created by British medium Georgiana Houghton in the 1860s and 70s, on display until 10 March 2024. The exhibition, Invisible Friends, brings together some of Houghton’s unknown and rarely seen works in Sydney, and highlights the significant role spiritualism played for artists in early modernism.

On the South Building’s ground level This Living Being That Is Colour presents a selection of works from the Art Gallery’s collection by contemporary artists who share Kandinsky’s belief in the power of colour and of abstraction.

‘We’re deeply grateful to the Guggenheim Museum for their generosity in allowing one of the world’s great Kandinsky collections to travel to Sydney,’ said Brand.

‘I have no doubt that the ebullient spirit and energy of Kandinsky’s paintings will captivate our visitors this summer. Seeing the work of an iconic modernist master in tandem with a contemporary artist like Desmond Lazaro along with the rare display of Houghton’s spiritualist watercolours provides a very special offering for everyone who comes to the Art Gallery’.

Visitors to the Art Gallery are invited to delve deeper into the world of abstraction with a range of exhibition related public programs .i

Visit during Art After Hours on Wednesdays throughout November and December to join drawing workshops set to music and hear talks on exhibition themes while enjoying late night access to the Art Gallery. On Wednesday 8 November hear artist Desmond Lazaro in conversation with Jackie Dunn as they explore the links between Kandinsky and Lazaro’s interest in geometry, the cosmos and the spirit and then join Lazaro in a geometry workshop.

On Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December, visitors are invited to join The Midnight Horrors artist collective as they host a laboratory across both buildings of the Art Gallery inspired by the Bauhaus art and design scene of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933).

Visit the exhibition on Wednesday nights from 10 January to 14 February and enjoy a music program Klänge, co-curated by Claire Edwardes OAM. Featuring Ensemble Offspring with Australian and international guests performing some of the music that inspired Kandinsky, as well as commissions created especially to celebrate his love of music.

Kandinsky visitors can join guided daily tours at 12pm and 2pm and on Wednesdays at 6.30pm, free with exhibition ticket. Tours will also be available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean. Bring your own headphones to amplify your visit with a free immersive self-guided audio experience featuring curator insights and original music compositions.

For more information and to explore the full range of public programs, visit the Art Gallery website.

Kandinsky is on display  until 10 March 2024 and tickets are available now, alongside tickets for the Art Gallery’s concurrent 2023–24 Sydney International Art Series exhibition Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day? (25 November 2023 – 28 April 2024). Discounted tickets for entry into both exhibitions are available, as well as an Art Pass which also provides access to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s Sydney International Art Series exhibition Tacita Dean.

The Sydney International Art Series is a NSW Government initiative through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, in collaboration with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia to bring the world’s most outstanding international artists and their works exclusively to Sydney.

Featured image : Vasily Kandinsky ‘Painting with white border’ May 1913, oil on canvas, 140.3 x 200.3 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, by gift, photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation