The Biennale of Sydney announced today that it will close its twenty-second edition, which only opened to the public on March 14, because of the worsening covid-19 pandemic and will move the entire exhibition online. Titled “NIRIN,” which means edge in Wiradjuri, the biennial was billed as an artist- and First Nations–led event. Staged across numerous venues, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of NSW, and featuring more than seven hundred artworks by 101 artists and collectives, the exhibition opened as scheduled earlier this month with organizers reassuring visitors that they were monitoring the current global health crisis and would modify the biennial as needed to ensure public safety. 

The decision came as the number of cases of covid-19 in Australia climbed to 1,600 and new restrictions were introduced by the government. According to CNA, most of the states have since closed their borders and are enforcing their own lockdown laws. In a statement, organizers said the safety of the biennial’s visitors, artists, staff, and wider community is its “top priority.” “And so, in line with the latest advice from government authorities, the Biennale of Sydney is closing its public exhibitions from Tuesday, 24 March 2020 until further notice. We will continue to adapt and innovate in the face of this global crisis. Our doors close across Sydney, and they will open online—for everyone, everywhere across the world. We remain steadfastly committed to the artists and communities we serve by moving to a digital program.”

The exhibition will work with Google to bring “NIRIN” to international audiences via the Google Arts & Culture platform. The virtual Biennale will comprise live content as well as walkthroughs, podcasts, interactive Q&As, and curated tours. “At times like these, it is more important than ever that we find ways to connect, to help each other, listen, collaborate and heal—all core themes of NIRIN,” the organizers said. “We look forward to welcoming you back to the physical exhibition when our Government authorities deem it safe to reopen. Until then, we encourage everyone to look after one another during this challenging time, and when you go looking for connections in isolation, engage online.”


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