Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria kicks off its Women in Design Commission with a Tatiana Bilbao installation

Auspicious Beginnings

Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria kicks off its Women in Design Commission with a Tatiana Bilbao installation

MECCA X NGV Women in Design Commission 2022; Tatiana Bilbao collage (Courtesy Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO)

Australia’s oldest and most visited art museum, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne, celebrated International Women’s Day by announcing the launch of a major exhibition series that will showcase the work of five international female designers and architects. The series is presented by the NGV in collaboration with Australian beauty retailer MECCA (an Antipodean Sephora of sorts), which has made the series possible through a major contribution from its philanthropic arm, M-Power.

In addition to announcing the overall exhibition series, the inaugural designer to be featured as part of the annual MECCA X NGV Women in Design Commission has also been revealed, and she is one that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to AN readers: Mexico City-based architect and educator Tatiana Bilbao.

For the commission, Bilbao will design a large-scale installation for the NGV to be formally unveiled this September. The work will be on view at NGV International in the Melbourne Arts District through March 2023. As noted in a press announcement, Bilbao’s installation at the NGV will combine “textiles with architectural structure, drawing on her studio’s use of collage, drawing and model making. The commission will be a physical expression of Bilbao’s aim to free architecture from the conventions and canon of the 20th century; to propose a new trajectory that is focused on community, sustainability and ethics.”

Subsequent commissioned designers will be announced on International Women’s Day over the next four years—in 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026—with the series culminating in a “major exhibition to showcase the five bodies of work and the remarkable collection outcome.” Per the announcement, the MECCA X NGV Design Commission is a first-of-its-kind exhibition series for Australia and will “create a platform to present topical, world-premiere works of international significance that amplify the contribution female designers are making to shaping our world.”

portrait of tatiana bilbao
Tatiana Bilbao, architect and founder of Tatiana Bilbao Estudio. (Photo by Ana Hop)

In a statement, Bilboa expressed her gratitude to the NGV and MECCA and noted that the new exhibition series is “contributing in many ways to advance the discourse of the importance of opening channels for people that have been left out of opportunities.”

“When chosen, I took this responsibility very seriously and I am truly thankful for the opportunity,” she added.

Tatiana Bilbao’s is a compelling voice from outside of the traditional canon of architecture, offering a unique perspective on both its history and its future,” said NGV Director Tony Ellwood. “A woman from North America, an advocate and a spokesperson for change, Bilbao creates work that is as intellectually rigorous as it is visually dynamic.”

Although the MECCA X NGV Women in Design Commission is a new one, the museum and the retailer have partnered since 2016 and previously launched initiatives that similarly aimed to “empower and engage” women artists and designers. One major ongoing collaboration between the two is a limited-edition holiday campaign and packaging for MECCA’s makeup and skincare lines created by a female designer or artist. As noted in the announcement, “MECCA supports the NGV to acquire work by the selected artist for the NGV Collection, helping to enrich its holdings of contemporary art and design.” Previous women artists and designers whose works have been added to the NGV collection thanks to the largesse of MECCA include Naomi Hobson, Louise Zhang, Tammy Kanat, Claudia Moodoonuthi, Atong Atem, Rebecca Baumann, and Tanya Schultz.

“We have had such wonderful moments with the NGV through our long partnership, and I am so incredibly thrilled that it has culminated in this MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission so that we can spotlight the creative minds of women in the design space,” said MECCA Brands founder and co-CEO Jo Horgan. “To collaborate with designers of such calibre, like global innovator Tatiana Bilbao for the inaugural commission, is truly so special.”