Flashback Friday: 1st Biennale of Sydney

Posted on 22 November 2013 in Flashback Friday, News
Robert Brown, Here to Here, 1973

Tomorrow marks our 40th Anniversary and we thought it only fitting to chat to someone who has attended all 18 Biennales over the years to share some of his fondest memories – Chairman, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis.

You’ve been Chairman of the Biennale of Sydney since June 2000. Since then, what has been your favourite Biennale moment?

That’s a dastardly question! There are so many, with very different emotions! I’ll give you excerpts from my first and most recent Biennales as Chairman.

My first in 2002 with Richard Grayson as Artistic Director. For the media launch, Richard got up on stage with Pope Alice (artist Luke Roberts) who had a white facemask with no hair, no mouth and two black alien eyes, dressed in a white pontifical habit. In his arms he cradled a pink inflatable baby (with the same eyes). We all thought we are now in unchartered waters … and I was speechless!

Most recently, in this last 2012 show curated by Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster, at the AGNSW, there was Jin Shi’s Mini Home and Small Business: Karaoke. Shi says of his work: ‘The life of the desperately poor is more artistic than art – so moving that any further [artistic] processing only pales beside it.’

But you’ve been involved in the Biennale of Sydney for much longer than that – your father, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis founded the Biennale of Sydney in 1973. What are some of your fondest memories of the earlier years?

I suppose seeing how much joy and satisfaction my father got from it all: the artists, the Artistic Directors, the then CEO Paula Latos-Valier – their enthusiasm and dedication. And then there were the openings with Prime Ministers, starting with Gough Whitlam in 1973, the parties … My father just revelled in it all.

How many Biennales have you attended in total and what years?

All of them.

What artwork or Biennale have you connected with the most personally over the years?

It probably has to be Jimmy Durham’s Still Life with Stone & Car. My wife and I purchased it and placed it on a roundabout at Walsh Bay.

What pieces do you think have generated the most memorable reactions from the audience over the years?

Don’t know – it’s an enormous list. I’d be guessing – for me Antony Gormley’s Asian & Field in Pier 2/3 in 2006, Rene Block’s use of the Bond Stores in 1990, Martin Creed’s Goat Island Balloon Room in ’98. These were the big works. And then there are the more intimate smaller pieces like the paintings of Marlene Dumas or Luisa Cunha’s audio text Hello situated in the toilets of the MCA, unexpectedly asking: ‘Are you there…? Can you hear me?’


Images from the 1st Biennale of Sydney (1973)

Related Links: Flashback Friday: 4th Biennale of Sydney, William WrightFlashback Friday: 5th Biennale of Sydney, Leon Paroissien Flashback Friday: 6th Biennale of Sydney, Pier 2/3 Flashback Friday: 7th Biennale of Sydney, The Aboriginal Memorial Flashback Friday: 8th Biennale of Sydney, Warhol, Koons and more Flashback Friday: 9th Biennale of Sydney, Anthony Bond Flashback Friday: 10th Biennale of Sydney, Douglas Gordon Flashback Friday: 11th Biennale of Sydney, Goat Island Flashback Friday: 12th Biennale of Sydney, Yoko Ono Flashback Friday: 13th Biennale of Sydney, imagination run wild Flashback Friday: 14th Biennale of Sydney, in Pictures Flashback Friday: 15th Biennale of Sydney, Highlights Flashback Friday: 16th Biennale of Sydney, Cockatoo Island Flashback Friday: 17th Biennale of Sydney, BIG art  Flashback Friday: 18th Biennale of Sydney in numbers

Image: Robert Brown, Here to Here, 1973. Installation view of the Inaugural Biennale of Sydney (1973)