Sep 23 2021

National Gallery of Australia Commissions Landmark Sculpture by Lindy Lee

by Victoria Chan

A rendering of LINDY LEE’s Ouroboros. Courtesy the artist, Urban Art Projects, and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney / Singapore.

Artist Lindy Lee is creating the National Gallery of Australia’s most expensive commissioned work to date. Titled Ouroboros, the sculpture has a price tag of AUD 14 million (USD 10 million), and will be unveiled in 2024 in the museum’s sculpture garden, where it will be accessible by the public 24 hours a day.

Ouroboros’s shape and name references the ancient, transcultural symbol of a snake devouring its own tail, which signifies the infinite cycle of renewal and death, and is informed by the artist’s interest in Eastern philosophies, including Taoism and Zen Buddhism, as well as the mysteries of nature and the cosmos. Measuring four meters in height and weighing around 13 tons, the structure will be made from stainless steel with a reflective mirror finish, and will be placed in a shallow pool of water within the garden grounds, near the museum’s main entrance. Using a path that cuts across the water, visitors will be able to walk through the sculpture’s hollow interior, which will be painted a matte black. In the daytime, hundreds of tiny perforations that dot the sculpture’s body will allow sunlight to filter into its cavity. At night, lights embedded within the sculpture will shine through these small holes, transforming the work into what Lee intends to be “a dance between something that is solid and something that is just drifting off into stardust,” and inviting the audience into an intimate yet galactic experience. 

The artwork, to be made using recycled materials and renewable energy, will also mark a new chapter in Australia’s public art, as it will be among the country’s first eco-conscious public-art projects. Nick Mitzevich, director of the National Gallery, says that the commission “represents a defining moment in our history and aligns with [the museum’s] mission to reflect and respond to contemporary Australia.” The Ouroboros commission is part of the institution’s celebration of its 40th anniversary in 2022, and is part of its plan to renew its gardens. The team will begin seeking the National Capital Authority’s approval of the work’s construction this month.

Victoria Chan is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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