Dance Me to the End of Love

Dance Me to the End of Love, an exhibition that reflects on the grand cycles of life through objects from the SAM Collection. Borrowing its name from a song by Canadian artist Leonard Cohen, the exhibition traverses the stages of human existence, from birth to death and beyond. Artworks featured span the course of one hundred and twenty years in diverse mediums, including ceramics, sculpture, painting, printmaking, assemblage, and installation. 

Comprising of works from thirty-nine artists, Dance Me to the End of Love shares stories of lives lived and delves into connective experiences of creation, parenthood, spiritualism, life seasons, death, and the afterlife.  

Exhibiting artists include Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Nell, Julie Dowling (Badimaya/Warida) and Norah Gurdon. Beloved items from the collection have staged their return to the galleries, and their debut in the new SAM, including Sam Jinks' hyperrealistic Woman and Child. First displayed at SAM in 2010 as part of a single-artwork exhibition, the work garnered an overwhelming response from the community, and was subsequently acquired. The work features a lifelike sculpture of an elderly woman tenderly embracing a newborn baby in an evocative reflection on life’s beginning and end. 

Also making its return is Melbourne-based artist Penny Byrne’s darkly humorous 2009 ceramic work The Four Horsemen of the 21st Century Apocalypse. Comprising of four figurines, each horse and its rider confronts the issues that threaten the globe in the 21st century, including overpopulation and shortages of food and water. Pairing found ceramics with reclaimed children’s toys, Byrne juxtaposes the starkness of her subject matter with kitsch in her contemplation of global crises. 

Jess O’Farrell, SAM Exhibitions Curator, says of the show: “For the second major SAM Collection exhibition in the new SAM we wanted to showcase the breadth of our collection by including some all time favourite pieces, such as Woman and Child, and sharing recent acquisitions. Dance Me to the End of Love explores stories of the universal journey of life through artworks that capture emotions and experiences that are difficult to describe in words. In recent years we have been reminded of the fragility of life and our deep need to connect with others. Our hope is that visitors will connect with stories and concepts that deeply resonate with them when viewing the show, and share their own reflections on life with friends and family.” 

Dance Me to the End of Love opened at SAM on Saturday 18 March 2023 and will be showing until 11 February 2024 with free entry. 

Full list of exhibiting artists: Janet Beckhouse, Sarah Boehme, Peter Booth, Godwin Bradbeer, Penny Byrne, Katthy Cavaliere, Yvonne Cohen, Julie Dowling, Dulcie Enalanga, Ida Enalanga, Irene Mbitjana Entata, Janet Fieldhouse, Mark Galea, Norah Gurdon, Stanislav Halpern, Brent Harris with John Loane, Noreen Ngala Hudson, Judith Pungkarta Inkamala, Sam Jinks, Esther Ngala Kennedy, David Larwill, Elizabeth Kngwarriya Moketarinja, Hedwig Moketarinja, Elaine Kngwarria Namatjira, Nell, Ann Newmarch, Trevor Nickolls, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Kathleen Petyarre, Hugh Ramsay, Carol Panangka Rontji, Virginia Rontji, Judi Singleton, Sally Smart, Long Tom Tjapanangka, Angela Valamanesh, Hossein Valamanesh, and Maggie Watson. 

Curators: Jessica O’Farrell and Shelley McSpedden