Sydney Modern’s Tank Gallery first commission is sculptor Adrian Villar Rojas

The resulting forms, which the artist has described as “witnesses to turbulent change” and “impossible objects”, have been realized throughout the past year in an experimental workshop in the artist’s hometown of Rosario where he “pushed materials to the limits” to portray the sculptures’ journeys through time.

The work has been funded by Destination NSW, and admission will be free to the public. It’s a key part of Sydney Modern’s opening program that will feature works by more than 900 Australian and international artists and will be revealed on Wednesday morning.

The Tank will be programmed similarly to the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in that there will be an annual commission of a site-specific installation that speaks only to that location.

The artist, who destroys most of his installations after an exhibition and culls their elements for re-use, is secretive about his works until public opening.

Villar Rojas’ The Theater of Disappearance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It featured sculptures that fuse human figures with replicas of nearly 100 objects from the museum’s collection.Credit:AP

The Tank’s concrete columns interrupt sight-lines, making it unsuitable for a traditional exhibition hang, but its pin-sharp acoustics lend the space to sensory multimedia works.

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Minister for the Arts Ben Franklin, who trained for 10 years as a singer, is an admirer of the gallery’s acoustics. “I had a chance to feel the reverberation which went for 21 or 22 seconds,” he said.

“You know, Notre Dame only goes for 16. It was incredible.

“It made me understand the sort of extraordinary variety of cultural and creative uses there will be. There will be some amazing installations that will play with size and form.”

Villar Rojas first visited the space four years ago, before COVID-19 swept the world.

“When I first visited in 2018 and climbed down a ladder into the Tank, I understood with all my senses the power and potential of this underground realm with all its layers of time, materials and history,” he said recently.

From a live simulation of the artist's work.

From a live simulation of the artist’s work. Credit:Adrian Villar Rojas

And one of the most important mediums has been time – the time to dwell in a space, to talk with everyone from archivists to Indigenous curators to conservators, to push ideas and technologies, and to draw into the project the conditions of a world that has changed massively.”

Commissions for the Tank Gallery will be by invitation only, but word of the unique space is already creating interest internationally.

With its dark, gritty industrial origins the oil tank makes for an atmospheric counterbalance to the upstairs galleries enclosed by Sydney Modern’s glass sheath.

The disused oil tanks were decommissioned and the two manholes bolted shut sometime in the 1980s. They were uncovered in geo-technical surveys undertaken in 2014.

Architects SANAA decided to use one as a gallery, and place a mezzanine in the other for back-of-house facilities.

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