The National Gallery of Australia Unveils Its New $4.5 Million Jordan Wolfson Sculpture

The museum spent a large part of its budget to commission the sculpture in 2019.

Jordan Wolfson. Detail of Body Sculpture (2023). Photo courtesy of David Sims via National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra has unveiled a new sculpture by Jordan Wolfson, which sparked controversy for its high-dollar cost when it was commissioned in 2019 sight unseen.

At the time, reports said the museum had paid about $5 million for Body Sculpture, a significant chunk—if not all—of the its annual acquisitions budget. But museum director Nick Mitzevich told The Guardian that the sculpture cost $4.5 million, about 40 percent of its budget.

The piece is another animatronic outing for Wolfson, featuring a metal cube embodied with two arms complete with hands. These animatronic limbs are activated to perform various gestures—some innocuous, some obscene—through a chain connected to another robotic arm.

“The intention is that the movement of Body Sculpture elicits the viewer to become activated in their bodies and therefore present,” Wolfson said in a statement provided by the museum. “It’s about seeing ourselves through three‑dimensional objects, which is what I believe sculpture as doing.”

Jordan Wolfson, Body Sculpture (detail), 2023. © Jordan Wolfson. Courtesy Gagosian, Sadie Coles HQ, and David Zwirner. Photo: David Sims.

Jordan Wolfson, Body Sculpture (detail), 2023. © Jordan Wolfson. Courtesy Gagosian, Sadie Coles HQ, and David Zwirner. Photo: David Sims.

The work is being exhibited alongside others in the museum’s collection selected by the artist and is also accompanied by an illustrated publication that hits topics including cybernetics and media theory. It is the first solo presentation of the 43-year-old American artist in Australia. Museum director Nick Mitzevich called the acquisition is “historic” and a “milestone in contemporary art” for the institution.

“From its inception, the national collection has been shaped by bold and ambitious acquisitions, with the aim of sharing the most significant artworks and ideas from around the world with the Australian public,” Mitzevich said.

National Gallery of Australia director Nick Mitzevich with Jordan Wolfson’s Body Sculpture (2023). Photo courtesy of Sam Cooper via National Gallery of Australia.

The new work follows Wolfson’s Female Figure (2014) and Colored Sculpture (2016), similarly combining sculpture and “performance” in a bid to comment on the “darkness within the human condition,” according to the museum.

Body Sculpture takes this experience further in terms of scale, duration and complexity,” Mitzevich said.

Programming accompanying the exhibit includes a conversation between Wolfson and head curator Russell Storer, which will be broadcasted live on the museum’s website on Saturday, as well as a conversation with robotics expert Mark Setrakian, who “played a crucial role” in the creation of Wolfson’s sculpture, according to the museum.

Jordan Wolfson: Body Sculpture” is on view at the National Gallery of Australia, Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country Parkes Place East, Parkes, Australia, December 9 through April 28, 2024.


More Trending Stories:  

Art Critic Jerry Saltz Gets Into an Online Skirmish With A.I. Superstar Refik Anadol 

Your Go-To Guide to All the Fairs You Can’t Miss During Miami Art Week 2023 

The Old Masters of Comedy: See the Hidden Jokes in 5 Dutch Artworks 

David Hockney Lights Up London’s Battersea Power Station With Animated Christmas Trees 

On Edge Before Miami Basel, the Art World Is Bracing for ‘the Question’ 

Thieves Stole More Than $1 Million Worth of Parts From an Anselm Kiefer Sculpture 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics