The most important commission in Brisbane history to date has been announced to mark the 10th anniversary of Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). The eastern and southern external facades of the gallery will be lit up by artist James Turrell. Turrell, a National Medal of Arts winner, will illuminate the facade from dusk to dawn with an evolving light pattern he has specifically designed for the gallery. To say this commission will harness light and colour to transform visitors’ experience is true, but lacking. Turrell’s commission will move beyond art as an object but art as an act of perception – removing the middleman of form to the “seen” and “act of seeing”.
Turrell’s commission will realise the original design intention of the architects who designed the gallery. In 2002, Architectus and Davenport Campbell, who won the international competition to design the gallery, said they envisaged an artist-illuminated ‘white box’ as part of their design.
Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Director Chris Saines said the Queensland Government had contributed largely towards the commission, alongside the generous leading donations from Paul and Susan Taylor and the Neilson Foundation.
It is understandable that the Queensland government has contributed financially to the commission, as it is likely to be another of Turrell’s ‘destination artworks’, similar to many of his permanent works he has created around the globe, like Breathing Light, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Light Inside, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The artwork will shine pronouncing the Cultural Precinct in the Brisbane night cityscape.
Being a permanent work installed in the outdoor arena, the work will be open for contemplation up-close and far. Visitors directly outside will be able to experience the work in the vernacular of the architecture, while people on the other side of the Brisbane river will experience the work in the frame of the night cityscape.
GOMA has announced the artwork will be on show from December this year. In 1979, Turrell acquired an extinct volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona, and since then has been transforming it into a naked-eye observatory for viewing the night sky. But, Turrell is not an earth artist, instead he says “…I’m working to bring celestial objects like the sun and moon into the spaces that we inhabit… I apprehend light – I make events that shape or contain light.”