In our time

Four decades of art from China and beyond – the Geoff Raby Collection

NAS Galleries, 19 Jan to 30 Mar 2024

42 artists
Curator: Bala Starr. Coordinating curator: Katrina Cashman, NAS Galleries

We are proud to partner with the National Art School to present In our time at NAS Galleries, Sydney, as part of Sydney Festival 2024. The exhibition includes a selection of artworks from La Trobe's Geoff Raby Collection of Chinese Art, amassed by the Australian economist and diplomat Dr Geoff Raby AO over a 35-year period beginning in the mid-1980s. The collection is a vibrant trove of artworks by more than 70 artists working in China and in Australia, as members of the Chinese diaspora.

Through artworks infused with humour and irony, the exhibition explores diverse themes, from sex and sensuality, politics and power, to the construction of identity. Through artworks imbued variously with humour, fantasy and sarcasm, the selected artworks address diverse themes ranging from urban life, Chinese philosophy and cultural difference to social justice, human rights and nationhood. Offering multiple entry points, the exhibition reveals stylistic and thematic developments in contemporary art in the context of changing political ideologies, social conditions and cultural activities in China and Australia. The represented artists work in media including painting, photography, drawing, ceramics, sculpture and textiles.

Geoff Raby is a committed art collector whose acquisitions reflect both his sociability and his role as a diplomatic mediator. He belongs to a group of collectors in Asia whose friendships and global networks changed the course of regional art histories. By enlarging the reach of contemporary artists’ practices beyond independent studios and private galleries, these individuals often fast-tracked emerging artists’ careers.

In our time explores diverse styles and artistic technologies. The exhibition mirrors developments in contemporary art practice in the context of changing political ideologies, social conditions and cultural activities in China and Australia. The collected works record a dynamic period of Chinese history when artists were responding to the economic and cultural opening-up of the country while navigating its reforms. The exhibition takes on a heightened significance at a time when the relationships between China and the west have placed a premium on soft power, cooperation and cross-cultural understanding.

Learn more about the artists and artworks, including five case studies, in the NAS Galleries education kit on the NAS Galleries exhibition webpage. The kit is designed for students in the senior years of high school (NSW Preliminary and HSC or the IB syllabuses).

Read about key works in the Geoff Raby Collection of Chinese Art through commissioned texts by young scholars and writers Shanti Shea An, Soo-Min Shim, Genevieve Trail and Bianca Winataputri.

Read art critic John McDonald's Sydney Morning Herald column (17 February 2024) discussing the exhibition on his website.

Image: Chen Man, Ms Wan studies hard, 2011. © Chen Man. Courtesy the artist. La Trobe University Geoff Raby Collection of Chinese Art. Photo: Jia De