Esperanto presents the breadth of Newell Harry’s practice, woven together in a complex network of ideas and narratives. The exhibition recognises pivotal moments in Australian, South African and Indo-Pacific histories of the 60s and 70s, such as the end of the White Australia Policy, the 1967 referendum, anti-apartheid rugby protests, environmental and anti-nuclear testing movements, as well as themes of South African pop culture, ideas of trade, gift giving, family stories of migration and care, and an open engagement with notions of museological display and value.
A major new commission will be unveiled as part of the exhibition, a large-scale photographic series set in Sydney’s Callan Park that speaks to central ideas in the artist’s practice, such as the complexity of identity, championing of the ‘other’ via the anti-narrative, and a blackening of the conceptual art canon.
An expanded iteration of his archival installation Sul Mare (2022), first shown at the 17th Istanbul Biennial, will also be presented alongside important works from public and private collections, including the Art Gallery of NSW, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, MAMA’s permanent collection and the artists’ personal archive. Woven pandanus gift mats, photographs, works on paper, objects and artefacts, books, and a range of contextually related paraphernalia, will be presented alongside specially sourced texts, resource materials and an archival film program.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring essays by Djon Mundine, Jasmin Stephens, an artist interview with James Gatt, and a text by exhibition curator Michael Moran.
Michael Moran, Acting Director of MAMA and exhibition curator said, “MAMA is thrilled to present Esperanto, Newell Harry’s largest solo project to date. Alluding to the utopian Internationalist language created in the 1880s, Esperanto seeks a conversation that moves across place, culture, and linguistic difference. This fascinating exhibition represents the museum’s first major solo exhibition of a living Australian artist, and encapsulates our vision for presenting contemporary art at the forefront of global dialogue that challenges and inspires.”