When you’re a young or emerging artist the usual process for getting an exhibition goes something like this: find a potential gallery; propose a show that meets their requirements; cross your fingers you get it; and if you do, then cross your fingers you can fund it.
For the NEW exhibition series at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, that tedious process is flipped on its head. Each year ACCA invites a small group of Australia’s upcoming artists to participate in the exhibition, offering financial, curatorial and technological support to help realise ambitious new works. As the name suggests, NEW13 is an exhibition of new work by exciting new artists, but it’s also meant to be a laboratory, a playground, a springboard. You get the idea.
This is in keeping with ACCA’s site-specific, commission-based approach more generally says Charlotte Day, ACCA’s Associate Curator and the curator of this year’s NEW13. “For ACCA – across the board not just with NEW – we are interested in projects that are made for here,” says Day “That are made for the physical space, or in response to the physical space, or in response to the scale and types audiences who visit… It gives a work a different kind of energy.”
To date it seems the NEW artists haven’t put forward any proposals that are too hard or too bonkers. “At ACCA we’re very used to producing work, building them in situ, being very involved in art making,” says Day, “We love to take on things that are challenging, just so long as it’s not dangerous or doomed to failure. If there’s a reasonable possibility that we can make it happen, we’ll definitely give it a go.”
The list of NEW alumni is impressive, including artists who’ve gone on to feature in the Sydney and Venice Bienniales and whose work has been bought by major Australian art museums, all of which makes the show a must for anyone who’s even vaguely interested in what’s happening in Australian art right now. But Day rejects any suggestion that the show is an exercise in tastemaking, “When I start I just try to clear my mind of any preconceptions about who I should be looking at this time, and really start from scratch with a process of lots of studio visits and … seeing as much as I can.” It’s not about who’s hot right now, says Day, but more about “recognising that artists are at a certain point and it’s the right time for them”.
Artists stepping up to the plate this year are Benjamin Forster, Jess MacNeill, Alex Martinis Roe, Sanne Mestrom, Scott Mitchell, Joshua Petherick and Linda Tegg.