'We Change the World' exhibition questions how art and design inspire change

Alexandra Kehayoglouu

We Change the World, is an interactive all ages exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, which invites audiences to consider how art and design can inspire positive change in our society, and encourages visitors to think about their own potential to create change as individuals.

Running from the 7 May to the 19 September, the exhibition features more than sixty works of Australian and international contemporary art, design and fashion from the NGV Collection, including work by Ben Quilty, the Guerrilla Girls, Richard Bell, Delissa Walker, Marlene Gilson, Ai Weiwei and Iris van Herpen. Spanning four thematic sections – the environment, activism, the everyday and the future – the exhibition explores some of the complex contemporary issues that are of particular concern to young people, including the climate emergency, entrenched inequalities, humanitarian injustices, culture and identity.

The exhibition features interactive activities and digital content that invite audiences to directly engage with the themes of the exhibition, including a specially designed QR-code voting system and microsite that encourages visitors to be an active part of a discussion inspired by the art and design on display. As visitors move through the space, they also encounter text-based provocations and questions incorporated into the exhibition design, which invite critical thinking and personal reflection.

We Change the World invites audiences – both young and old – to explore their own potential to create change through the work of leading artists and designers from the NGV Collection. Change, at its heart, is a creative gesture; and this exhibition celebrates the power of art and design to inspire us all to be creative, to celebrate uniqueness, to find our own voice and to think differently,’ Tony Ellwood AM, Director, National Gallery of Victoria says.

Highlight works include a new acquisition by contemporary Australian painter Ben Quilty entitled 150 year, Rorschach, 2019. During a bushwalk in the NSW Southern Highlands, Quilty and his son came across a National Parks and Wildlife sign that described the location as ‘a favourite gathering place for locals for more than 150 years’. The waterholes have been important locations for the Gundangara people for millennia and Quilty created this painting in response to the ongoing institutional denial of Aboriginal history.

Also on display are Peter Drew’s Aussie series of street posters, which he created from portrait photographs of diverse background Australians found in the National Archives of Australia. Emblazoned with the text “Aussie”, Drew’s campaign sought to draw attention to historical and contemporary prejudices by challenging the people’s notion of what a typical Australian might look like.

Featured works also include Hoda Afshar’s two-channel film Remain, 2018, which follows a group of stateless men after the Manus Island immigration detention centre was closed in 2017 and The landing 2018 in which Wauthurung artist Marlene Gilson re-contextualises early colonial visual narratives which now encompass Aboriginal people within the scene.

Peter Drew

We Change the World has been curated across multiple departments at the National Gallery of Victoria, including the departments of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Design and Architecture, Indigenous Art and Audience Engagement and Learning. The exhibition is accompanied by a microsite featuring new texts, videos, virtual discussions, as well as online learning resources for schools to address key learning areas that align with the curriculum.

Make sure to see We change the World at the Ian Potter Centre before this September!


Location: The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Dates: 7 May - 19 September 2021

Time: 10 - 5pm daily

NGV Website