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Monash Gallery of Art

29 May - 29 August 2021

In response to the social, environmental and economic impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic on Australian artists and society at large, MGA has commissioned artists Jane Burton, Cherine Fahd, Isobel Knowles + Van Sowerwine, Phuong Ngo, and James Tylor to respond creatively with new bodies of work for the exhibition STAGES: photography through the pandemic.

Photographers image the spaces between us, whether physical or psychological, be it through portraits or landscapes, within the domestic sphere or the public realm. The significance of work and leisure routines and the liberty of everyday behaviours we take for granted is never better understood than when the right and ability to do them is taken away.

Our experience of a twenty-first century response, led by government, to this global pandemic is paradoxical. On the one hand we must work online and remain in the safe haven of home, while on the other hand this shields us from the real world scenario of a pandemic that is being mediated through the 24 hour news cycle. These circumstances of rapid change mark a paradigm shift in the way artists live and work.

As a strategic response to the impacts of the pandemic MGA drew upon our dynamic network of partner institutions, professional colleagues and friends within the Australian photography community and invited them to nominate artists for the STAGES commissions. This approach enabled us to swiftly connect our networks to reach artists whose practice responds strongly to the relevant themes. The STAGES commissions seeks to enable their practice in a time of economic pressure and to creatively reflect on our collective path through the pandemic phenomenon.

Curator: Anouska Phizacklea, Director Monash Gallery of Art

Commissioning Curatorium: Anouska Phizacklea, Director, Gareth Syvret, Associate Curator and Stella Loftus-Hills, Curator



The commission STAGES is a commissioning exhibition whose infancy emerged in response to the COVID-19 protocols enacted to control the pandemic in Australia, which resulted in the deferral or cancellation of exhibitions, commissions and projects for artists. Through the commission, MGA was able to provide financial support directly to practicing artists at a time of great need in the Australian arts sector. As the health situation changes, the economic imperatives remain.


In May 2020, MGA invited 30 colleagues across the photography sector, including directors of institutions, curators, writers, educators and producers to each nominate an artist working with photography to be shortlisted for the STAGES commission. The nominated artists were invited to submit a project proposal and the curatorial team at MGA selected the five successful projects.

The Luminaries:


The exhibition is proudly supported by The Luminaries, a circle of philanthropic leaders whose annual gift enables MGA to present an exhibition that celebrates and champions Australian photographers and encourages a deeper engagement with their practice by new audiences.

Nominator & Nominee:

Helen Frajman  (Director, M.33) -  Jane Burton

Naomi Cass (Director, Castlemaine Art Museum) - Cherine Fahd

Gael Newton, AM (curatorial consultant & researcher) - Isobel Knowles & Van Sowerwine

Shane Hulbert (Associate Dean, Photography, RMIT University School of Art) - Phuong Ngo 

Hetti Perkins (curator and writer) - James Tylor 

Over the last year these artists have created bodies of work that respond creatively to the social, environmental and economic impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic on society at large. These newly commissioned works will feature in online and gallery-based exhibition outcomes as part of MGA’s 2021 Luminaries series, with a selection of the commissioned works entering the MGA Collection.

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