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MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission: Tatiana Bilbao, 6 October 2022 – 29 January 2023, Free entry

08 Oct 2022

The inaugural MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission, opening on 6 October, will unveil a large- scale installation by world-leading Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao exploring the concept of clothing as a symbol of protection, and the associated practices of domestic labour, gender and community.

The MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission is a major five-year series that, each year, invites an international female designer or architect to create new and significant work for the NGV Collection.

The first and only initiative of its kind in Australia, the Commission will create an annual platform for the presentation of topical, world-premiere works that amplify the contribution of female designers and architects in shaping our world.

Titled La ropa sucia se lava en casa (Dirty clothes are washed at home), 2022, the installation draws on the notion of clothing as a symbol of protection for the body and the associated labour of caring for garments as an act of self-care.

Central to the installation is a basin-like structure inspired by the Lavadero of Huichapan, a historical communal laundry located in the town of Huichapan, Hildalgo in Mexico. The construction of the lavadero dates back to the 18th century and was built for the local community to access the natural spring water. The communal structure represents a bygone practice of laundering clothing in public spaces and the social bonds formed among communities through this act.

Symbolising the age-old and cross-cultural practice of washing clothes, the installation is draped with large patchwork quilts, each comprising textiles and clothing donated and sewn together by people in Berlin, Mexico City and Melbourne, who participated in workshops delivered by Tatiana Bilbao Estudio in the making of the work.

Wall drawings and mixed-media collages depict communal laundries and washhouses from around the world and throughout history, creating a collective memory of the diverse social interactions that laundry spaces have enabled in societies, where the associated labour often goes unrecognised. The commission is a physical expression of Bilbao’s aim to free architecture from the conventions of the 20th century and to propose a new trajectory that is focused on community, sustainability and ethics.

Regarded as one of Mexico’s leading architects working today, Bilbao founded Tatiana Bilbao Estudio in Mexico City in 2004 with the aim of conducting architectural design work from a position of social and ecological responsibility. Her work is known for challenging historical conventions, often rearticulating spaces so that they are more people- orientated and inclusive.

Tatiana Bilbao said: ‘I am deeply honoured and grateful to have been chosen for the Women in Design Commission by the NGV and MECCA. The Commission is contributing, in many ways, to advance the discourse of the importance of opening channels for people who have been left out of opportunities.’

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: ‘The ongoing Women in Design Commission will highlight the ground- breaking work of women in this field from Australia and around the world, as well as strengthening the NGV Collection for future generations. We are grateful to MECCA for their visionary support of this Australian-first initiative and commend their continued mission to elevate and empower women in the creative industries.

‘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. 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,’ said Ellwood.

The MECCA x NGV Women in Design commission series is enabled by a significant contribution from MECCA Brands through its social change program, M-POWER, which champions equality and opportunity for women and girls. This is MECCA’s single largest commitment to an Australian cultural institution and exponentially expands the NGV’s longstanding partnership with the brand.

Jo Horgan, founder and co-CEO, MECCA Brands, said: ‘At the beating heart of MECCA is our mission to champion equality and opportunity for women and girls.

‘Over the past six years, our longstanding partnership with NGV has elevated and empowered a group of incredible female artists and at the same time created broader awareness of the underrepresentation of women in the arts, a historic imbalance we are passionately committed to addressing. I am so incredibly thrilled that this MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission will spotlight the creative minds, and extraordinary contribution of women in the design space. Tatiana Bilbao is a global innovator whose work sets a benchmark for sustainability, ethics and community. Collaborating with her for the inaugural commission is truly so special,’ said Horgan.

The 2022 MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission: Tatiana Bilbao will be on display from 6 October 2022 – 29 January 2023 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Free entry. Further information is available via the NGV website: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/mecca-x-ngv-women-in-design-commission/

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