NGV Triennial: Summer’s Kaleidoscope



by Caitlin Leishman

It’s the final month to catch the NGV Triennial.  On the ground floor of the NGV, even on an inoffensive Tuesday afternoon, you are greeted with the swarming buzz of families, tourists, and even a few art goers all darting back and forth like excited wasps.

Initially, the crowd can be overwhelming, so a deep breath is required alongside one of those little NGV guides that ensure you aren’t swept up with the group and don’t miss any hidden treats.

How does such a mammoth exhibition get pieced together?  NGV’s Head of Fundraising, Misha Agzarian, explained in a recent Triennial edition of the NGV magazine that pairing artists with the genuine interests of philanthropists was a key building block.  Yayoi Kusama is supported by the NGV Women’s Association, while Ron Muek’s Mass was commissioned by the Felton Bequest and then donated to the NGV.  This work, in particular, kept NGV security on their toes with children weaving their way through Muek’s skulls.


Although the big impact works on the ground floor are impressive, I personally appreciated the curatorship involved in combining triennial works with the NGV’s permanent collection on the second and third floors.  Jonathan Owen’s Untitled 2016 white marble woman amongst bronze sculptures by Rodin for example.

At first glance, colours and shapes all jumbled, the Triennial might resemble the mess of a mixed bag of lollies.  But after taking the time to negotiate through each level larger themes soon thread together.

Irish artist Richard Mosse ‘s moving 52-minute film, Incoming 2015-2016, covers the tracks of refugees from the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  Three huge screens and surround sound delivers a thrumming impact.  Mosse has used cameras that capture imagery up to 30kms away and detect body heat.  The result is an engaging and disconcerting feeling as you view this sequence of individuals.  The X-ray-like effect gives the sense of the subjects’ pulse.

Many works aimed to prompt appreciation, conceptually for the environment or visually for raw materials and optical illusions.  A series of photographs by Myoung Ho Lee stood out to me.  Lee has taken huge white sheets and placed them behind different trees, then photographed the tree with this simple backdrop.  His effort highlights natural beauty that is often too camouflaged to be seen and appreciated.


Pae White’s wall hanging left me in awe.  Although metallic in nature, like a jagged mirror from as little as a metre away, up close you realize what seemed to have reflective properties and to be hard is in fact a soft woven rug.


After two visits, I can happily confirm that there’s something to interest everyone in this Triennial.

National Gallery of Victoria:  15 DEC – 15 April 2018


Leave a Reply