Recently retired from the Art Gallery of NSW, highly respected curator Anthony Bond was the Artistic Director of the 9th Biennale of Sydney (1992–93). Reflecting his skill at recognising emerging artists, over 90% of the artists participating had never before exhibited in Australia.
We recently caught up with Anthony who shared some of his memories from his time with the Biennale.
It’s been 20 years since you were Artistic Director of the Biennale of Sydney. What are some of your fondest memories from your time working on the exhibition?
In 1991–92 when I was researching the Biennale it was the first real chance to research new artists behind the Iron Curtain. Many artists from there were represented for the first time. It was also just after I participated in the week long Arts International Forums at Venice in 1990 to discuss how we would develop a strategy for including artists from countries that had not had a history of the avant-garde. This followed the Magiciennes De La Terre exhibition by J-H Martin. I have since been asked to talk in America as the first Biennale director to attempt to deal with this in Boundary Rider. I have described what this was about at length in my personal website should anyone be interested to know more.
Were there any installations you had a particularly strong personal connection with and if so why?
Doris Salcedo has to be top of the list so much so that I repeated the installation in 1997 for the exhibition BODY so that I could build it to last and acquire it. I was also delighted by the way Richard Bell responded to my provocations and Border Art Workshop as Guillermo Pena and Coco Fusco. Artists from Thailand did very well thanks to help from Apinan, there was no money for emerging countries so much relied on what could be made here or come in a suitcase. There were so many site specific works that I loved but were never recorded in the catalogue or any other form. I wish heartily now that we had always filmed the Biennales so that a really good record of the space and how it worked and how one work related to another could have been preserved.
Can you recall any pieces that seemed to grab the public’s attention more than you had anticipated?
Unfortunately it was probably Orlan. I say unfortunately because she captured the media and distracted from the real innovation, which was to go global.
Have you attended any Biennale of Sydney exhibitions since and are you able to switch off from ‘work’ mode and enjoy it purely as part of the audience?
I have attended all of the Biennale of Sydneys since then and many others around the world; in fact I just got back from Istanbul, Venice and Lyon. I always enjoy some of it but there is always a critical faculty, which I might say I would hope every visitor would bring. Often the best highlight is collateral. For me this year ‘When Attitudes Become Form’ at Fondazione Prada and ‘Tapies: The Eyesof the Artist’ at Museo Fortuny stand out from Venice as well as Matthew Barney in Lyon. Also Pierre Huyghe at Pompidou Center and Hiroshi Sugimoto in Paris. Both amazing and very serious exhibitions albeit not in a Biennale forum.
From 1993 until now what has been the biggest change in the Biennale of Sydney that you’ve noticed?
The biggest change is the arrival of Cockatoo Island, we were always struggling to get great off site venues and I always felt that the harbour needed to be at the core. A much bigger staff and bigger budget also make more ambitious ideas achievable today.
Images from 10th Biennale of Sydney (1992–93)
Image: Marc Quinn, I Need An Axe To Break The Ice, 1992, latex rubber, glass, stainless steel, tripod 185 x 80 x 80 cm. Courtesy Jay Jopling Fine Art