The festival, entitled Nirin, meaning “edge” in the language of Mr Andrew’s nation, the Wiradjuri, was originally spread across six principal venues. Only Darlinghurst’s National Art School will not continue as a Biennale host.
The Art Gallery of NSW, Artspace and Campbelltown Arts Centre will reopen on June 1, with exhibits at Cockatoo Island and the Museum of Contemporary Art to follow on June 16.
“When the news came of June 1 being the opening date for galleries and museums there is no denying it was a surprise to the sector,” Biennale chief executive Barbara Moore said. “We were aiming for July 1. But it goes to our purposes for art and audiences – you get the doors open and figure out the finances and everything else later.”
Some works were taken down when the closure – described by Ms Moore as a “hibernation” – happened, particularly those on Cockatoo Island.
“The works that were most exposed we removed and stored so that they wouldn’t deteriorate,” she said. “The teams are working through all that right now. There is some finessing to do.”
Organisers are also looking for new venues for works from the National Art School, which is not allowed outside visitors because it is an educational establishment. The Neilson Foundation, already a major contributor to the Biennale, has given extra funds to pay for the relocation.
Ms Moore said visitors would see some changes due to COVID-19 precautions but that most of the venues naturally lent themselves to being pandemic safe.
“Normally, when you walk into a gallery you are social distancing,” she said. “If somebody came too close to you while you were looking at a painting it would feel weird and you would move away.
“Of course, there are going to be protocols in place. But Cockatoo Island, for example, is a very low-risk area for transmission because it is open air and the ceilings for the spaces are really high.”