Air: A journey through this invisible, ethereal & vital element


The Gallery’s summer blockbuster exhibition ‘Air’ explores the cultural, ecological and political dimensions of this elemental substance with major works by more than thirty leading international and Australian artists including Carlos Amorales (Mexico), Dora Budor (Croatia), Tacita Dean (UK/Europe), Mona Hatoum (Lebanon/UK), Jonathan Jones (Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi, Australia), Anthony McCall (UK/USA), Ron Mueck (Australia/UK), Jamie North (Australia), Thu Van Tran (Vietnam/France), Tomás Saraceno (Argentina) and Jemima Wyman (Pairrebeener, Australia).

‘Air’ presents works of art, many newly commissioned, in a range of media from large immersive installations to intimately scaled objects across the entire ground floor of the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane.

Air | Timed tickets on sale
GOMA, Until 23 April 2023

At the heart of the exhibition is Drift: A cosmic web of thermodynamic rhythms 2022 (illustrated) by Argentinian-born, Berlin-based artist Tomás Saraceno, a major new commission that takes the form of a mesmerising constellation of fifteen partially mirrored spheres suspended in GOMA’s central atrium space. Saraceno’s Drift engages the poetic and imaginative potential of air as its partially transparent, partially reflective orbs float above the viewer at different heights, some moving gently as if breathing.

Tomás Saraceno ‘Drift: A cosmic web of thermodynamic rhythms’

Tomás Saraceno, Argentina b.1973 / Installation view of Drift: A cosmic web of thermodynamic rhythms 2022, ‘Air’ GOMA 2022 / 15 Aerocene spheres, transparent and metallic mylar, tape, pump with overpressure release, polyester rope, kinetic system, backpack, newspaper, pamphlets, books and photographic prints on paper / Dimensions variable / Purchased 2022 with funds from the Neilson Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Tomás Saraceno / Photograph: C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Through five unfolding chapters — Atmosphere, Shared, Burn, Invisible and Change — the work of contemporary artists in ‘Air’ will inspire visitors to consider the global environmental and social challenges we face, including sustainability, equity and connectivity.

At this moment in history, as global temperatures rise, we are sensitive to air as never before: alert to airborne threats and aware of our reliance on this precious mix of gases. The exhibition asks us to consider the air we share with all other life, to reflect on what it means to breathe freely and to examine air as a metaphor for change and the realisation of our potential. ‘Air’ follows ‘Water’ the major GOMA exhibition of summer 2019-20. 

Chalk Fall 2018 (illustrated), a monumental work by leading UK artist and filmmaker Tacita Dean is unveiled for the first time following its recent acquisition. Dean’s textural, multi-panel drawing evokes England’s White Cliffs of Dover in chalk, while Mona Hatoum’s neon-lit sculpture Hot Spot 2006 (illustrated), made to depict a world burning with political turmoil, now aptly describes our ecological crisis.

Tacita Dean ‘Chalk Fall’

Tacita Dean, United Kingdom b.1965 / Chalk Fall 2018 / Chalk on blackboard / Nine panels: 121.9 x 243.8cm (each); 365.8 x 731.5cm (overall) / Purchased 2021. The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Charitable Trust / Collection: The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Charitable Trust, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Tacita Dean / Image courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

Mona Hatoum ‘Hot Spot’

Mona Hatoum, Lebanon/United Kingdom b.1952 / Installation view of Hot Spot 2006, ‘Air’ GOMA 2022 / Stainless steel and neon tube / 230 x 223 x 223cm / The David and Indrė Roberts Collection / Courtesy: The Roberts Institute of Art, London / Photograph: M Campbell © QAGOMA

Other highlights include Dora Budor’s trio of glass chambers Origins I–III 2019 (Origin II (Burning of the Houses) illustrated), containing eerie volcanic mounds and puffed clouds of pigmented dust, and Jonathan Jones’s untitled (giran) 2018 (illustrated), an installation of bird-like sculptures with an accompanying soundscape created in collaboration with Dr Uncle Stan Grant Sr AM. Carlos Amorales’s swarm of black moth and butterfly silhouettes Black Cloud 2007/2018 (illustrated) is a stark reminder of the fragility of life; Anthony McCall’s solid-light installation Crossing 2016 (illustrated), makes air visible through shafts of light intersecting with smoke haze.

Dora Budor ‘Origin II (Burning of the Houses)’

Dora Budor, Croatia b.1984 / Origin II (Burning of the Houses) 2019 / Custom environmental chamber (reactive electronic system, compressor, valves, 3D printed elements, aluminium, acrylic, LED light, glass, wood, paint), organic and synthetic pigments, diatomaceous earth, FX dust, felt, ed. 3/3 / One of three chambers: 152 x 160 x 86cm (each) / Purchased 2021. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Dora Budor / Photograph: M Campbell © QAGOMA

DELVE DEEPER: Dora Budor’s colour fields in motion

Jonathan Jones ‘untitled (giran)’

Jonathan Jones, Artist, Kamilaroi/Wiradjuri people, Australia b.1978; Dr Uncle Stan Grant Sr AM, Cultural advisor and speaker of recorded Wiradjuri, Wiradjuri people, Australia b.1940 / Installation view of untitled (giran) 2018 / Bindu-gaany (freshwater mussel shell), gabudha (rush), gawurra (feathers), marrung dinawan (emu egg), walung (stone), wambuwung dhabal (kangaroo bone), wayu (string), wiiny (wood) on wire pins, 48-channel soundscape, eucalyptus oil / 1742 pieces (comprising 291 Bindu-gaany; 290 Galigal; 292 Bagaay; 291 Dhalany; 280 Bingal; 298 Waybarra) / Purchased 2018 with funds from Tim Fairfax AC through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Jonathan Jones

Carlos Amorales ‘Black Cloud’

Carlos Amorales, Mexico b.1970 / Installation view of Black Cloud 2007/2018, ‘Air’ GOMA 2022 / 30 000 black laser-cut and handfolded paper butterflies (30 different butterfly and moth species in five sizes with a wave wing pattern), ed. 1/3 (+ 1 A.P.) / Purchased 2022 with funds from Tim Fairfax AC through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Carlos Amorales / Photograph: M Campbell © QAGOMA

Anthony McCall ‘Crossing’

Anthony McCall, United Kingdom/United States b.1946 / Installation view of Crossing 2016 / Two double video projections (20 minutes), haze machine, sound / Commissioned to mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art / Purchased 2016 with funds from Tim Fairfax AC through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Anthony McCall / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA

DELVE DEEPER: Anthony McCall makes air visible

New commissions also include Portal 2022 (illustrated), Jamie North’s twin concrete towers which feature plant species indigenous to Brisbane, holding growth and ruin in dynamic tension, and Jemima Wyman’s Plume 20 2022, a vast, cloud of air created from a collage of images depicting protest and civil unrest.

Jamie North ‘Portal’

Jamie North, Australia b.1971 / Installation view of Portal 2022, ‘Air’ GOMA 2022 / Cement, ash, slag, expanded clay, graphite, organic matter and plants native to Queensland / Two columns: 290.9 x 60cm (each), plus plants / Courtesy: Jamie North and The Renshaws, Brisbane / © Jamie North/Copyright Agency, 2022 / Photograph: M Campbell © QAGOMA

Jemima Wyman ‘Plume’

Jemima Wyman, Pairrebeener people, Australia b.1977 / Plume 2021 / Hand-cut digital photographs / Courtesy: Jemima Wyman, Milani Gallery, Brisbane, and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney / Photograph: E Mumford

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The exhibition is accompanied by the film program ‘Melting into Air‘ in the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA, 26 November 2022 to 23 April 2023. The free cinema program explores screen depictions of this essential element from over the past century, showcasing hidden mysteries within deep fogs, the sublime potential of natural phenomena, and the transformative power of the invisible world around us.

DISCOVER MORE: Melting into air – five unmissable films

Production still from ‘The Wind’ 1928

Production still from The Wind 1928 / Dir: Victor Sjöström / Image courtesy: Roadshow Films

Air’ is on display at the Gallery of Modern Art, Gallery 1.1 (The Fairfax Gallery), Gallery 1.2 & Gallery 1.3 (Eric and Marion Taylor Gallery) from 26 November 2022 to 23 April 2023.

Buy timed tickets in advance to guarantee entry. Last session 4.00pm daily. Exhibition closes at 5.00pm.

The accompanying exhibition publication Air is available at the QAGOMA Store and online.

Featured image: Installation view of Tomás Saraceno’s Drift: A cosmic web of thermodynamic rhythms (detail) 2022, ‘Air’ GOMA 2022 

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