Curated by MCA Senior Curator Natasha Bullock, this is the museum’s first complete presentation of the permanent Level 2 Collection Galleries since their launch in 2012 with Volume One. Including work by more than forty Australian artists from the 1960s to the present, recent acquisitions and a number of new commissions, this exhibition tells the story of the ever-evolving nature of contemporary art.
Artists in Today Tomorrow Yesterday include: Vernon Ah Kee, James Angus, Barbara Cleveland Institute (formerly Brown Council), John Barbour, Gordon Bennett, Daniel Boyd, Pat Brassington, Bob Burruwal, A.D.S Donaldson, Mikala Dwyer, Dale Frank, Marco Fusinato, Matthys Gerber, Kevin Gilbert, Julia Gorman, Fiona Hall, Robert Hunter, Robert MacPherson, Sanné Mestrom, Frank Malkorda, Linda Marrinon, Elizabeth Mipilanggurr, Callum Morton, Barayuwa Munungur, John Nixon, Kerrie Poliness, Stuart Ringholt, Joan Ross, Super Critical Mass, Gareth Sansom, Sally Smart, Ricky Swallow, Kathy Temin, Imants Tillers, Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Hossein Valamenesh, Justene Williams and Emma White.
The title, Today Tomorrow Yesterday, is an adaptation drawn from The Prophet, a book of 26 prose poetry essays by the Lebanese artist and philosopher Kahlil Gibran. He wrote: “...yesterday is but to-day’s memory, and to-morrow is to-day’s dream”. As well as reflecting on the passing of time, the title also refers to the museum’s challenging role in shaping a collection of contemporary Australian art that is simultaneously of its moment and hinged to history.
MCA, Senior Curator, Natasha Bullock said: “From contemporary interpretations of Aboriginal ancestral stories to the continuing effects of early to mid-20th century avant- garde art, theatre and politics, this exhibition shows the impact of the past on the art of today.”
From a video work by Adelaide artist Hossein Valamanesh entitled Passing Time 2011, which shows the artists’ hands forming and reforming an infinity sign, to a large- scale mantelpiece clock by Melbourne artist Stuart Ringholt that ticks too quick and a woodcut by Kevin Gilbert from the 60s that remembers Aboriginal stories and sites – these works portray universal themes that speak literally and metaphorically about how we understand the continuum of time and the ever-present nature of yesterday. The exhibition refers to the western understanding of time as linear and the Aboriginal understanding of time as eternal where past, present and future circle as one.
MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE said: “The MCA has always aimed to bridge the divide – balancing the past with the present, but with an eye focused firmly on the future. We are delighted that MCA Collection: Today Tomorrow Yesterday presents a number of the museum’s acquisitions since its incorporation in 1989, including a number of new works acquired by the MCA Foundation since 2012.”
“It is not without the generous acts of private philanthropy and the support of our Collection Partner, Qantas, that we would have a collection of national and international cultural significance.”
The MCA, Qantas and Tate, announced a Joint Acquisition Program for contemporary Australian art to promote Australian art globally, helping Australian artists reach new audiences in September 2015. Made possible through a $2.75 million corporate gift from the Qantas Foundation, this ground-breaking collaboration enables an ambitious five-year joint program through which a range of major artworks by contemporary established Australian artists will be acquired for the collections of MCA and Tate, owned and displayed by both institutions. The new collection presentation includes two works that have since been acquired by the MCA and Tate, a major abstract painting diptych entitled Number Nine 2008 from Gordon Bennett’s striped series and a masterful four-channel video installation tall man 2010 by Vernon Ah Kee which considers the 2004 Palm Island riots in Queensland.
Within Today Tomorrow Yesterday visitors will discover the inaugural Artist Room exhibition. This is a new series of exhibitions, to highlight the depth of the MCA’s holdings of a single artist’s practice. The first exhibition is curated by Manya Sellers, Assistant Curator, Collection and considers the work of Melbourne artist Linda Marrinon. Along with a new commission, the exhibition includes significant paintings from the 1980s to show the artist’s transition from painting to sculpture.
Another new feature is a commission for the Maritime Services Boardroom,located in the Collection galleries. Melbourne artist Julia Gorman has reinvigorated the space with an installation entitled The Forties which responds to the Art Deco features of the boardroom and the museum. Gorman is best known for her site-specific vinyl installations employing abstracted geometric shapes and sinuous lines. This new work twists and turns across the gallery floor in a bold colour palette. Gorman has created a complete experience with colourful window inserts, a painting and handmade light shades. Inside the space, visitors will be able to access a comprehensive array of MCA resources and behind-the-scenes material about the collection. Also on display is MCA’s App which presents content from artists, curators, musicians, critics and scholars, sharing their experiences of the art on display.
To coincide with this special occasion, the MCA is presenting a conference to bring together artists, curators, academics and commentators from Australia and abroad. Titled ‘The Forever Now: Contemporary Art Collections in the 21st Century’ (Thursday 1 September – Saturday 3 September) will examine how contemporary art collections shape our pasts and anticipate our futures. Speakers include Frances Morris (Director, Tate Modern), Jenepher Duncan (Curator, Contemporary Australian Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia), Natasha Conland (Curator, Auckland Art Gallery), Stephen Gilchrist (Lecturer, University of Sydney), Thomas J. Berghuis (Director, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, Indonesia), Tom Nicholson (artist, Lecturer, Monash Art, Design and Architecture at Monash University) and Jasper Sharp (Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art at the Kunsthistorisches Museum).
Today Tomorrow Yesterday represents the guiding principles of the MCA Collection. It is focused on contemporary Australian art, embraces all media and is motivated by a respect for the creative process and vision of today’s artists.