National Gallery of Australia announces major commission by Lindy Lee

Eminent Chinese-Australian artist to create NGA’s most expensive commission to date.

Words: Charlotte Middleton

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra has announced its acquisition of a $14 million outdoor sculpture by Lindy Lee for its 40th anniversary next year.

The most expensive in the gallery’s history, the commission follows the eminent Chinese-Australian artist’s first major retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) last year.

The Ouroboros, based on the ancient symbol of a snake eating its tail, will stand at around four metres high and weigh approximately 13 tonnes, constructed from mirror polished stainless steel. Funded through the National Gallery’s Collection Development Fund, the immersive sculpture will be one of Australia’s first sustainable works of public art, incorporating recycled materials and maximising renewable energy.

“This commission represents a defining moment in our history and aligns with our mission to reflect and respond to contemporary Australia,” said Nick Mitzevich, director of the NGA.

For Lee, a student of Zen Buddhism, the ouroboros is symbolic of repetition and renewal, cyclical time, eternal flow, unity of the beginning and the end, transformation and alchemy.

To be installed at the main entrance to the gallery by 2024, visitors will be able to walk right inside the sculpture which will sit within a shallow pool of water. The perforated surface of the proposed work will give the impression of illumination by thousands of stars when lit from within at night.

Accessible day and night, Lee’s Ouroboros marks the first commission for the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden since 2010, and forms part of the National Gallery’s plan to renew the gardens.

Explaining her vision for the artwork, Lee said: “During the day [the sculpture’s] highly polished mirror surface will reflect the imagery of the floating world. The transience of passers-by, cars, birds in flight and stunning clouds. And at night the Ouroboros will be lit internally, returning its light to the world – a dance between something that is solid and something that is just drifting off into stardust.”

This project will be a collaboration between Lindy Lee, Urban Art Projects and Sullivan+Strumpf. Seeking National Capital Authority approval for the works begins this month, with the work due for completion in early 2024.

Lindy Lee is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney.

This article was originally published 28 September 2021.

Image: Lindy Lee working on the Ouroboros maquette. Photo by Zoe Wesolowski-Fisher.


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