The National 2021 is an ambitious six-year program with an ethos to support new work in the context of what it means to make art in Australia at this point in time.

The landmark project is presented in a series of three exhibitions and is a partnership between the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Arts Australia (MCA).

The National 2017 was the first exhibition that featured 150 artists and provided a shift in orientation towards seeking to reimagine an alternate collective Australian identity from artists across the country of a variation of generations and cultural backgrounds.  In 2019 the institutions presented 70 artists, of which 60 percent were women and over a third were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.  The collective presentations attracted over 600,000 visitors.

This year there is a focus on art that offers ways to heal and care for our fragile natural and social ecosystems.  39 artists are featured and a number have been developing past iterations through installations and performance with large-scale survey works on planetary themes of responsibility, global uncertainty and relationships to Country.

Modes of care within all our relations in art make an experience felt. Indigenous ways of knowing, seeing and being in a variation of forms that are expressed by the body is the AGNSW approach to the characteristics and conditions of contemporary Australian art.

Co-curators Matt Cox and Erin Vink have integrated the Manifesto for Maintenance Art written 50 years ago by feminist American artist Mierle Laderman Ukles.  Ukles claims: “care work is art because it involves creative; challenging; emotional work, just like making art does.”

“Everything I do is art is art.” Ukles Manifesto 123.  Her performances of Washing Inside and Outside (1973), were documented by her husband – her washing the outside steps, cleaning nappies and erasing footprints left behind by people who walked on enactment surfaces.  These acts culminated in an exhibition, CARE, that challenged the domestic role of women.

The National 2021: New Australian Art opens on 26 March 2021 at AGNSW, 5 September 2021; Carriageworks, 20 June 2021 and MCA, 22 August 2021.

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