Sydney International Art Series 2019-2020 – Cornelia Parker
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), Sydney
November 08, 2019 – February 16, 2020
On November 8th, the first major survey exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere by acclaimed British artist Cornelia Parker opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, as part of the tenth edition of the Sydney International Art Series. One of the most important artists working today, Cornelia Parker OBE is known for her transformation of everyday objects into unexpected, haunting scenarios – things are exploded, shot, turned back to front and rearranged in often surprising ways. Working with sculpture and installation, as well as drawing, photography and film, Parker subjects are presented at the very moment of their transformation, suspended in time and completely still. Curated by MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent, Cornelia Parker is the largest presentation of the artist’s work in Australia and encompasses over 40 artworks from the late 1980s to the present.
Spanning three decades of the artist’s practice, this Sydney-exclusive brings together new and recent artworks with significant loans from major public and private collections, including two large-scale installations Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View and Thirty Pieces of Silver from the Tate Collection, UK. MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, said, “We are thrilled to introduce Australian audiences to British artist Cornelia Parker, whose installations and sculptures have fascinated audiences wherever they have been shown. Her blown-up shed, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, is regularly named by visitors as their favourite work in the Tate Collection Australian audiences will have the opportunity to see the work of one of the most important female artists working today.
Exhibition highlights include the installation Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991), an ordinary garden shed that has been blown up by the British Army and reconfigured by Parker into a mass of burnt wooden shards and household objects. Suspended from the ceiling with a single light bulb at the centre, it casts dramatic shadows across the gallery walls and floor. Other highlights include Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988-89), featuring thirty suspended pools of silverware collected by Parker from friends, car boot sales and charity shops, then flattened by a steamroller; and Subconscious of a Monument (2001-05) comprising thousands of dried lumps of earth excavated by engineers from under the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
In her installation War Room (2015), Parker salvages discarded strips of red paper from the Poppy Factory in Richmond, London, which produces Remembrance Poppies to memorialise the Great War of 1914-18. The paper is perforated by over 30,000 holes where the poppy shapes have been removed; signifying human lives lost in conflict. Also included in the exhibition is Magna Carta (An Embroidery) (2015), a 12-metre long embroidery hand-stitched by over 200 individuals that recreates the Magna Carta Wikipedia entry, including British prison inmates and well-known individuals, such as Eliza Manningham-Buller (former head of M15), Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger (former editor of the Guardian UK), musician Jarvis Cocker and Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia).
Politics is a key theme in many of the artist’s recent works, and in 2017 Cornelia Parker was appointed as the first female Election Artist for the United Kingdom General Election. In this highly visible role, she observed the election campaign leading up to the 8 June vote, met with politicians, campaigners and voters and produced artworks in response. Three works feature in the exhibition including Left Right & Centre (2017), which was filmed by a drone at night in the House of Commons, Westminster; Thatcher’s Finger (2018), a shadow play featuring a sculpture of the former Prime Minister; and Election Abstract (2018), a visual journal of Parker’s experiences of the snap election that were posted on the artist’s Instagram feed. A beautifully designed publication has been published by the MCA with contributions by the artist, Rachel Kent and Professor Emeritus Margaret Iversen, University of Essex. The publication will be distributed by Thames and Hudson in the UK and Europe and will be available to purchase from the MCA Store.
On the exhibition, Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres said, “This survey exhibition at MCA is an exclusive opportunity for Australians and international visitors to engage with this renowned artist’s work. A cultural highlight for the summer months, it’s fantastic that Sydney is the only Australian city to hold such a comprehensive and groundbreaking exhibition of work by Cornelia Parker”. Since the Sydney International Art Series was established in 2010 by the NSW Government via tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, the initiative has generated over $149 million in overnight visitor expenditure for the State and attracted over 2.1 million attendees. Of these, more than 201,000 overnight visitors travelled to Sydney from overseas, interstate and regional NSW, specifically to view the exhibitions at the MCA and Art Gallery of NSW. The MCA would also like to acknowledge the generous support of Catriona and Simon Mordant AM as Principal Exhibition Patrons of its Sydney International Art Series exhibitions. On Saturday 9 November, the MCA will host an in conversation with artist Cornelia Parker and MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent. Cornelia Parker is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia from 8 November 2019 until 16 February 2020.