The country’s longest-standing survey of contemporary Australian art.

Are artists the last magicians?

Drawing inspiration from the 'Wunderkammer', those rooms or cabinets of wonder dedicated to the display of magical objects, the 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art champions the contemporary artist as conjuror.

With attendant meanings and manifestations, including contemporary artists' interests in the talismanic, in cultural rituals and material riddles, Magic Object offers the 'Wunderkammer' as a tool with which to both view the world and critique it.


Dr Lisa Slade


Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Glenn Barkley, Chris Bond, Pepai Jangala Carroll, Tarryn Gill, Louise Haselton, Juz Kitson, Loongkoonan, Fiona McMonagle, Danie Mellor, Clare Milledge, Tom Moore, Nell, Ramesh Mario-Nithiyendran, Bluey Roberts, Kate Rohde, Gareth Sansom, Robyn Stacey, Garry Stewart and the Australian Dance Theatre, Jacqui Stockdale, Heather B. Swann, Hiromi Tango, Roy Wiggan, Tiger Yaltangki and Michael Zavros.

Presented in partnership with the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, UniSA, and in association with the Adelaide Festival of Arts. The exhibition has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and generously supported by the Art Gallery of South Australia Biennial Ambassadors Program and Principal Donor The Balnaves Foundation.

The 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art exhibition partners are The Ramsay Foundation as Family Programs Partner; and Corporate Partners Lipman Karas, EY, Adelaide Airport Ltd and cummins&partners.

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah

A five metre long perahu carries an uncannily life-like effigy of the artist, guided by a hand carved polychrome rooster.

Bluey Roberts

Of the Ngarrindjeri and Kokatha nations, South Australian artist Bluey Roberts has, for decades, carefully and ingeniously crafted collectibles and curiosities.

Chris Bond

Protruding from the wall as though flung at high velocity across the room, Bond’s painted sculptures that look like books, remind us that painting is one of the oldest forms of illusionism.

Clare Milledge

Sydney-based Clare Milledge employs the use of the popular nineteenth century folk art tradition of 'Hinterglasmalerei'.

Danie Mellor

Nature – the world and its matter, whether alive or inert – becomes a magic object in and of itself for Mellor.

Fiona McMonagle

Coupled with her soft and muted watercolour paintings, Melbourne-based Fiona McMonagle, with the assistance of her technician brother Declan, has included an animation created from her paintings .

Gareth Sansom

Merging pop culture references, often filmic in origin, with intuitive and gestural mark making, Sansom rallies against his own control and consciousness in his work.

Garry Stewart & Australian Dance Theatre

'Proximity Interactive' invites viewers to shape space by using their own bodies.

Glenn Barkley

Barkley’s choice of ceramics as his preferred medium speaks to his investment in the dismissed and downgraded in ‘Temple of the Worm’.

Heather B Swann

Swann’s wearable sculptures of enormous dark and brooding Banksia Men engage not only with the natural realm, but also hint at the villainous characters by Australian children’s author May Gibbs.

Hiromi Tango

In ‘Breaking Cycle’ Tango references a lizard’s fascinating self-defensive behaviour, where it loses its tail and grows another after experiencing a threat to its life.

Jacqui Stockdale

Stockdale draws on the tales of Ned Kelly and Australia’s fascination with the famous bushranger in a series of eight photographs titled ‘The Boho’

Juz Kitson

Incorporating bones, fur, and various organic matter with her ceramics, Kitson has created a wondrous installation that is opulent, delicate, and sensual.

Kate Rohde

Rohde’s large cast–resin sculptures and furniture are positioned against her pulsating psychedelic wall treatments in the Art Gallery of South Australia’s vestibule during 'Magic Object'.


Loongkoonan's emotive paintings of overlapping concentric and linear patterns in shimmering paint are laden with meaning beyond the ecological references she depicts.

Louise Haselton

The idea of animism, or the belief that inanimate objects are indeed conscious, allows for Haselton’s works of art to direct their own evolution.

Michael Zavros

Recalling the fifth-century Greek fable of Zeuxis and Parrahasius, Zavros’ paintings are not what they seem at first.


Sydney-based artist Nell has a fascination with death rituals. The Haniwa, Japanese tomb ornament, is of particular interest.

Pepai Jangala Carroll

It is through his practice that Carroll conjures up Luritja/Pintupi country, merging his deep knowledge and custodial responsibilities of country into these wondrous works of art.

Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran

Sri Lankan-born, Sydney-based artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran is leading the recent ‘rediscovery’ of ceramics in Australian contemporary art.

Robyn Stacey

Using the camera obscura Sydney-based artist Robyn Stacey depicts the city of Adelaide as it has never been seen before.

Roy Wiggan

Bardi elder Roy Wiggan understood the magic of materials and the role of objects as a bridge from the past to the future.

Tarry Gill

Titled The Guardians, Gill’s stitched and sewn sculptures are reminiscent of characters found in folktales, pop culture, myths and legends.

Tiger Yaltangki

In Yaltangki’s boldly coloured, figurative canvasses he draws upon the influence of supernatural spirits, known as Mamu.

Tom Moore

Planktonic self (2015-16), positioned on North Terrace, signals Moore’s fascination with hybridity and mutation.