Perth Festival Visual Arts Program

Newly appointed Festival Visual Arts Curator Annika Kristensen brings a wealth of experience to the role, and an interest in creating opportunities for local artists through networking and exchange.


Annika Kristensen, Visual Arts Curator at the Perth Festival. Photo Mia Mala McDonald.

Appointed in April last year, Annika Kristensen is Perth Festival’s new Visual Arts Curator, a move apparently unplanned, yet very welcome. We settled in over a coffee to discuss the Festival’s 2023 program, but also to flesh out her trajectory for future programs. Kristensen grew up in Perth, studied arts and communications at the University of WA and spent some time writing for the West Australian. “I thought growing up being a journalist was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I decided to write about art specifically and wanted to have more of a theoretical backbone to my writing, so I did a master’s in Scotland.” Bad timing it seems. When Kristensen graduated in 2008, it was the month the recession hit Britain. “Finding work in journalism was nearly impossible, and there was this move towards digital,” she says. “So I decided to use my new master’s degree to pivot into arts organisations instead.”  
Since then Kristensen has worked with major international and Australian artists to commission new work and curate significant solo and group exhibitions. She was Exhibition and Project Coordinator for the 19th Biennale of Sydney in 2014, and the inaugural Nick Waterlow OAM Curatorial Fellow for the 18th Biennale of Sydney in 2012. She has also held positions at Frieze Art Fair, Artangel and Film and Video Umbrella in London. More recently she was Senior Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) in Melbourne, where she remains as an Associate Curator. Kristensen returned to Perth last year with her husband, who was originally from North Fremantle, and two small children, with a view to be closer to both their parents. “I didn’t really have any plans at the time, apart from continuing to curate a couple of shows a year at ACCA, but was fortunate that the role at the Festival came up at the same time. I feel very excited and privileged to be able to program for it. When I was growing up, the Perth Festival was something I really anticipated. It was where I saw incredible artworks and musicians. My parents took me to Somerville from the age of three, so returning to Perth every year for Christmas I would always go to Somerville as a kind of ritual.”
While much of the program was already in place when Kristensen took on her new role, she’s added more components, while already working on the 2024 program. “In the visual arts there’s long lead times for shows, particularly if you’re working institutionally, but there’s a few I’ve managed to squirrel in for this year,” she says. One of these is Sydney-based Michaela Gleave with Between Us, a massive undertaking of lights projecting Morse code messages into the night sky from the Art Gallery of WA’s Rooftop, and neatly fitting into the Festival theme of looking upwards to Djinda (Stars). Another is Francis Alÿs’ Children’s Games, around 20 videos documenting children’s activities around the world, some given new meaning against a backdrop of war or poverty. The works will precede the main feature during Somerville’s long season of films. “It was an important addition as he represented Belgium at the Venice Biennale in 2022, and because the Festival theme connects to children via the Noongar story of the old spirit woman Djoondal, who collected children (stars) in her hair before creating the Milky Way,” says Kristensen. “One of my interests as a curator is to put visual arts content in front of people who might not be interested in art, so it was also a strategic inclusion.” The third is a residency at the Postal Hall in the State Buildings by Sydney-based Jason Phu, where Kristensen hopes connections to local artists will be made, as well as engagement with the public. “At ACCA, I recently commissioned him to create a painting, and he built a house for it, so anything could happen,” she says.      
While out of necessity programming has been quite local in recent years, Kristensen says there’s a real appetite amongst galleries to bring in work from elsewhere. “The logistics of working internationally are really challenging at the moment, but I have been having a lot of Zoom calls with international artists at the moment for the 2024 program. What I’m interested in is creating opportunities for network and exchange in a local context, and that’s what I’m really excited about.

The fur clouds your eyes. It causes an itch. It clogs the drains, and in the end everything is obscured, 2019, Indian ink and golden acrylics, by Jason Phu.


BETWEEN US, Michaela Gleave
Rooftop, Art Gallery of WA, 3 – 6 March.
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 24 Feb – 23 April.
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 10 Feb – 23 April.
OTHER HORIZONS: Atong Atem, Hayley Millar Baker, 
Jasmine Togo-Brisby 
Fremantle Arts Centre, 4 Feb – 23 April.
Lisa Reihana, proppaNOW 
John Curtin Gallery, 10 Feb – 6 April. 
BLACK SKY: Tennant Creek Brio, Michael Bonner with Yinhawangka Traditional Owners, works from the Berndt Museum and Cruthers Collection 
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, 11 Feb – 22 April.
CHILDREN’S GAMES, Francis Alÿs  
Lotterywest Films, to 9 April. 
JASON PHU, Artist in residence, 
Como The Treasury, 19 – 26 Feb.
BEIJING REALISM: Tami Xiang, Han Bing, 
Hu Xiangquian
 Goolagatup Heathcote Gallery, 11 Feb – 26 March.
Moore Contemporary, 4 Feb – 10 March. 


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