Opening hours: Tuesday - Sunday, 11am-5pm

Watson Road

Observatory Hill (The Rocks)

Arthur Boyd: An Active Witness

  • This event finished on 12 July 2014

Arthur Boyd may have been known as shy and retiring but he was certainly not passive. He felt passionately about society and the world in which he lived. His responses informed his art making. His compassion and concern is reflected in artworks which don’t deliver a strident message or a simple solution. They are infused with the complexity of the issues themselves; wrapped in mythological and biblical narratives and set in the Australian landscape he universalised. This is one of the reasons Boyd’s work has, and will continue, to endure.

The exhibition honours the work of this internationally recognised Australian artist and the potential of the artist to influence society through their role as an active witness. It is the first major exhibition to consider the social and political consciousness that influenced Arthur Boyd’s art and contains a rich collection of significant artworks by Boyd and his dynastic Australian artist family members.

Alongside the Boyd collection is a small archive of photographs, letters and other documents that provide insight into Boyd’s historical, cultural and social milieu. Also included are selected works by his significant modern Australian contemporaries, such as Sidney Nolan and Charles Blackman.

Curated by Zara Stanhope, the exhibition is primarily drawn from the collection of the Bundanon Trust and positions Boyd as a critical yet empathetic witness engaged with the urgent issues of his time, issues which remain salient for audiences today.

Highlighted are enduring Boyd subject matters reflecting the ethical paradoxes faced by individuals and humanity, outsider figures and the power of groups and individuals, the futility and violence of war and the beauty, vulnerability and savagery of nature. Constant presences in Boyd’s imagery are the metamorphosis between human and animal figures and landscapes experienced and remembered.

Arthur Boyd wrestled with the burden of the artists’ role as an active witness in his work, but ultimately triumphed in his generous act of philanthropy – gifting his collection and Bundanon properties to the Australian people, saying:

‘I want it to be accessible to any Australian whose life can be enriched by the beauty, the history, the landscape, the environment and by the energy and stimulation from social interaction with Australian creative artists.’
A Bundanon Trust touring exhibition.


Media Coverage

Scott Bevan – ABC 24 News – Thursday 5 June (7 minutes)

Simone Whetton & Simon Marnie – ABC 702 Radio Saturday 14 June (6 minutes)

Gina Fairley – A socially alert Arthur Boyd  Arts Hub  24 June

John McDonald – An enigma in life and death  Sydney Morning Herald  28-29 June


Websites & Blogs

Art and Australia

ABC – Out and about in Sydney

Art Almanac

Art Guide

Time Out



Other Media & Marketing

Daily Telegraph Live next week listing 7-13 June

Daily Telegraph  Hot Tickets  22 June

Time Out – This month’s best art events 1 July

AGNSW Society member magazine


Public Programs

Sunday 22 June at 3pm  

Jennifer Thompson, Collections and Exhibitions Manager, Bundanon Trust, discussed works in the exhibition.

Sunday 29 June at 3pm 

Dr. Shane Norrish from Landcare Australia, discussed Living Landscapes, an environment regeneration project at the Bundanon properties.

Monday 7 July Bus tour to Bundanon to visit Boyd’s home & studio