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Contemporary Art presented by Sydney Opera House

Igniting imaginations

Contemporary art at the Sydney Opera House is guided by the promise that visual artists can challenge us to experience the world anew. With an emphasis on commissioning and exhibiting the artists of today, the twentieth century architectural icon is situated as a catalyst for visual artists to stage open-ended exhibitions, installations and projects that offer insights into the most pressing cultural, political and social questions of our society.

Transcending geographical boundaries, the contemporary art projects exhibited at the Opera House encapsulate the diversity of artistic expression, from temporal pursuits such as performance, sound and choreography, to digital art forms such as film, video and moving image, along with new art forms yet to be developed or fully understood. Central to these works is the encouragement of the deep understanding and enjoyment of art by our local, national and international audiences, both virtually and at the Opera House.

Through these meaningful encounters with artists and ideas of our time, the Opera House contributes to the global dialogue of contemporary art, weaving together the established and experimental, the past and present, the physical and the intangible - reflecting the promise that contemporary art, in illuminating our lives, can build a more just world. 

In your life you’ve got to have luck. To have this opportunity, I appreciate it very much. I can’t wait for overseas people and all Australians to see Vivid. God, I’m a lucky dog.

Dr John Olsen

Watch the documentary

By Walbanga and Wadi Wadi woman and award-winning producer Alison Page and director Nik Lachajczak.

This new polyphonic piece pulses with the sound of temperatures rising! rising! rising! and the burning intensity of the momentary present. Step by step, I’m pulsing with anticipation to make a work which will make you feel as if someone placed a defibrillator on your eyeballs and drum kit in your soul.

Lauren Brincat

An artefact is something from a different time that shows up and provokes our imagination. It is not only a thing, but a springboard into imagining who we have been, who we are, and who we might become.

Angela Goh

Giant Bonsai – a photographic project by Garry Trinh

Artist Garry Trinh’s Giant Bonsai (2011 -) is an ongoing photographic project, digitally presented for Antidote, that celebrates the incidental charms of creative urban vegetation pruning in Sydney.

A woman with long hair playing an electric guitar in front of a tower of amps.

Relics of Sound – a project by Nell

“These relics of sound were once loved, played or worn.” This new online artwork by Sydney artist NELL is for all those who have never let go of the posters, the t-shirts, the guitar picks and drumsticks.

Chapter 1

While much of the imagery is drawn from 2020, Chapter 1 Artists have created more than mere artefacts of the pandemic. Their enduring works beat with a rhetorical urgency. Conceived as online moving image works, video is used as a tool to navigate forward. They have taken to individual forms of political activism and social commentary, creating works that impel us to view the recent past differently, while asking what the future might portend.

Chapter 1 Artists: Yu Araki (Japan), Caroline Garcia (Australia), Cherine Fahd (Australia), Koki Tanaka (Japan).

Returning: Chapter 1 is co-presented with The Japan Foundation, Sydney.

Chapter 2

Critical, engaged and historically grounded, Chapter 2 platforms artists with particular interests exploring autobiography, mythology and culture to address a world that seems perpetually in crisis. Energised with cultural opposition, reclamation, and risk-taking, their responses are entwined with the politics of this time. Using the body, soundtrack, the Opera House and the virtual as their muses, the result is a broad-ranging collection of works that read as scenes, scores and states of existence: innocence, happiness, the sublime, despair, rage, confusion and imagination.

Ultimately, these artists have set their ambition to challenge us to be genuinely critical and thoughtful — asking us, as thinkers, as feelers and as witnesses to the past two years, to interrogate and engage more thoughtfully with the world around us. This is their vision of how we will return - return to the world, return to each other and most importantly, return to ourselves.

Chapter 2 Artists: Su Yu Hsin (Taiwan) & Angela Goh (Australia), Charwei Tsai (Taiwan), Riverbed Theatre Company (Taiwan), Amrita Hepi (Australia).

Returning: Chapter 2 is co-curated with C-Lab, Taiwan and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan.

Perhaps one day we can start our own pre-colonised orchestras and come together to play the instruments of our ancestors.

James Nguyen and Victoria Pham

Micheal DoCurator Contemporary Art

Micheal Do is a curator, programmer and writer working across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. His curatorial focus lies in developing thematic and immersive exhibitions that extrapolate research and artistic practices into contemporary contexts. He is curator, contemporary art at the Sydney Opera House, Australia and curator of Projects at Auckland Art Fair, New Zealand.

His exhibition ‘Soft Core’, exploring soft and inflatable sculptures developed for Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney, recently concluded its tour of twelve regional and rural galleries throughout New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland from 2016 – 2019. Micheal  curated ‘Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu’ (2017) and ‘The Invisible Hand’ (2019) for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and among other exhibitions curated ‘5X5: The Artist and The Patron’ (2018), a survey of 5 artist/collector relationships for Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest and ‘A Proxy for a Thousand Eyes’ (2020) for Sydney Opera House.

He was the 2018 recipient of The Freedman Foundation’s Travelling Scholarship for Curators and the recipient Museums and Galleries NSW Artist and Curator Residency Grant in 2016. His writing appears in publications including 4A Papers; Art Collector Australia; Art Monthly, Australasia; Art Review Asia, Artist Profile Magazine, S+S Magazine, VAULT Magazine, and 10 Magazine, along with artists’ catalogues.

Sydney Opera House’s Curator Contemporary Art is enabled by Cathy & Andrew Cameron AM.

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Micheal Do, Curator Contemporary Art. Image: Daniel Boud

Be a part of contemporary art at the Opera House

Contemporary art is at the heart of the Opera House, and has been since our 1973 opening. Each year, our donors help to commission new, exciting art projects at the Opera House, like the ones featured on this page.

Contact our Philanthropy team on 02 9250 7077 or