As summer brings fresh news of shark attacks and sightings spark fear in beachgoers, a new exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum seeks to change how we see the "maligned and misunderstood" predators.
The video installations, sculptures, photography and large-scale outdoor artworks of On Sharks & Humanity ask audiences to see beyond their fear.
‘Butterfly in Love with Flower’ by Zheng Lu outside the Maritime Museum in Pyrmont.Credit:Christopher Pearce
Chinese environmentalist art organisation Parkview Arts Action organised the exhibition to highlight the threats to shark populations worldwide, particularly from the fin trade, and the central role of sharks in the marine ecosystem.
The activist exhibition travelled to Monaco, Moscow, Beijing, Singapore and Hong Kong. It will run in Sydney until June 2019. It features work from more than 30 artists from around the world. The Sydney exhibition includes work by Indigenous artists highlighting the cultural significance of sharks.
Curator Huang Du says the show presents different perspectives on sharks, with some artists focusing on the perception of them as “killers” and others examining the brutality of finning, the practice of removing fins and then discarding sharks.
“We decided to initiate this social and public project with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of protecting sharks,” he says. "This is a global and international project.”
Of the world’s 400 shark species, 180 species live in Australian waters. Seventy of these are unique species and nine are listed as threatened.
For Daina Fletcher, the museum’s senior curator, the exhibition represents a new way to reach audiences with environmental and scientific messages.
“We’re taking a leap into contemporary art and the imagination and how this can inspire change,” Fletcher said.
“Overfishing and depletion of stocks could be quite a gruesome subject but, if we present it in a different way, then we encourage people to think more, or differently, or to go discuss it amongst themselves and in families.”
The exhibition boasts eye-catching outdoor artworks including a 10-metre stainless steel shark fin and two abstract installations featuring massive red buoys, which can be seen from across the water at King Street Wharf.
Chinese artist Wang Luyan created the abstract works especially for the Sydney exhibit.
“Art is a form of action and enlightenment,” he said. “It addresses people’s emotions and feelings and encourages them to make changes.”
On Sharks & Humanity is at the Australian National Maritime Museum from Tuesday December 11, until 2 June 2019, and is free to the public.
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