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Celebrations include projections on the Sydney Opera House, an Archibald Prize retrospective, and the Sydney Modern Project expansion.

John Brack, Barry Humphries in the character of Mrs Everage (1969). Oil on canvas. Courtesy Art Gallery of New South Wales. © Helen Brack.

Activities to mark the 150th anniversary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales begin Friday 23 April.

Works by six Aboriginal women artists will appear on the sails of the Sydney Opera House in a six-minute animation, entitled 'Badu Gili: Wonder Women'. The illumination will show hourly after sunset from Friday 23 April until the end of the year.

'Badu Gili: Wonder Women celebrates our renowned First Nations artists and their works in the Gallery's collection,' said Michael Brand, Director, Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Kaylene Whiskey's Dolly visits Indulkana (2020), illuminates the Sydney Opera House on April 22, 2021. Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images for Art Gallery of NSW.

'Badu gili' means 'water light' in the language of the Gadigal people indigenous to the area. Curated by Coby Edgar, the gallery's curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, the project began in 2017.

This year's showing is the first all-female line-up, with contributions from: Wadawurrung elder Marlene Gilson, Yankunytjatjara woman Kaylene Whiskey, Luritja woman Sally Mulda, Western Arrarnta women Judith Inkamala and Marlene Rubuntja, and the late Kamilaroi woman Aunty Elaine Russell.

The animation references both history and pop culture, from the Battle of the Eureka Stockade, fought between Victorian gold miners and British colonial forces in 1854, to country music star Dolly Parton.

Artist Judith Inkamala (L) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Coby Edgar, with the artist's Ura kngarra mpintjama (A big fire is coming) (2020) projected on the sails of Sydney Opera House. Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images for Art Gallery of NSW.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales also announced this week an exhibition that will look back at the history of the Archibald Prize for portraiture, which is judged by the gallery's trustees. Archie 100: A century of the Archibald Prize will run from 5 June–26 September.

John Brack won the Archibald Prize for his portrait of Barry Humphries, pictured above, in 1969.

The sesquicentennial celebrations will wrap up in 2022 with the completion of the Sydney Modern Project expansion. The project will increase the gallery's total exhibition space, from 9,000 to 16,000 square metres, and will feature galleries specifically designed to accommodate 21st century art. Designed by Japanese architecture firm SANAA, the new building will incorporate an underground space repurposed from a WWII naval oil tank.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is the custodian of the state's art collection, which includes 35,470 works worth a total of AU $1.749 billion (US $1.36 billion).

Recent acquisitions include Takashi Murakami's Japan Supernatural: Vertiginous After Staring at the Empty World Too Intensely, I Found Myself Trapped in the Realm of Lurking Ghosts and Monsters (2019), Simone Leigh's Sentinel (2019), Grace Crowley's untitled (Abstract painting) (1950), Karla Dickens' five sculptures from the series 'A Dickensian Circus' (2019), André Lhote's Maison à Tunis (1929), and Kent Monkman's The allegory of painting (2015). —[O]

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