Sydney Biennale is first to go virtual, after physical closure from tomorrow

Working with Google Arts and Culture, the event will be available online via walk-throughs, curated tours, podcasts, live Q&As and artist takeovers.

24 March 2020
Reading Time
2 minute read


As major art shows around the world postpone and cancel, many are rethinking their content for a digital forum, such as the Biennale of Sydney. Closing physically from tomorrow (ten days after opening) in line with Australian Government advice to aid the Covid-19 crisis, the major international art show will open online via numerous media to allow many more to access its programme of 700 artworks and associated events.

The biennale, the third oldest in the world after Venice and São Paulo, which in 2018 saw 854,000 visitors, is working with Google Arts and Culture – which already offers many online tours of international galleries – to become the first major biennale to go virtual. This includes a self-guided virtual walk-through and curated tours around its six venues, plus live talks, interactive Q&As, podcasts and artist takeovers.

Under the artistic direction of indigenous Australian artist Brook Andrew, the show is titled Nirin, meaning “edge”, a word from the language of the Wiradjuri people of western New South Wales which hopes to push audiences “to see beyond what they know, to challenge history, to be a part of the story and to immerse themselves in inspiration and imagined futures.”

There are over 700 artworks from 101 artists and collectives including Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama’s huge installation of sewn charcoal sacks in the Turbine Hall on Cockatoo Island, and Mexican artist Teresa Margolles’ dramatic piece exploring historic acts of violence that took place in Sydney. Highlights also include visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi’s presentation that looks at the politics of race, gender and sexuality; and Pitjantjatjara artist, activist and leader Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams’s (1952–2019) large-scale political protest piece created with the young men in his community, his widow Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin and his lifelong friend and collaborator Sammy Dodd.

Outside the artworks, a further 600 events were planned, which the organisers are attempting to reorganise for a digital stage. A press statement says the organisers will be sharing more in coming weeks.

Since the event is proudly artist-led and First Nations-led, the organisers also state they will “allow participating artists to lead the way in responding to the urgent social, political, and environmental issues we are facing today,” and hopes to reopen the physical show when it’s safe.


Teresa Margolles: Aproximación al lugar de los hechos for The Biennale of Sydney. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Share Article

Further Info

Ibrahim Mahama: No Friend but the Mountains for The Biennale of Sydney. Courtesy of the artist, White Cube and Apalazzo Gallery, Brescia. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent over a decade working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.