Sally Smart’s P.A.R.A.D.E Comes to Geelong Gallery

Sally Smart’s P.A.R.A.D.E Comes to Geelong Gallery

On Saturday, March 19, 2022, Geelong Gallery presents P.A.R.A.D.E. the second work in Sally Smart’s trilogy. In P.A.R.A.D.E. Smart explores and contemporizes the historical avant-garde performances and designs of the early 20th century Ballets Russes, widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the twentieth century.

Programmed to coincide with Geelong Design Week, Smart creates an experiential and immersive environment, comprising textiles, sculptural components and performance, inspired by the sets and costumes designed by Pablo Picasso for the Ballets Russes’ Parade in 1917.

Melbourne-based Sally Smart is one of Australia’s most highly regarded contemporary artists. The act of cutting, splicing, pinning, layering and manipulating multiple fragments across spaces is central to her multi-disciplinary practice. Her use of painted and printed textile elements aligns with a long-standing interest in the domestic and feminine, and a desire to fracture or rupture societal expectations of gendered roles.

The structural device of the curtain—a main component of this exhibition— functions as a conceptual framework, along with costumes freestanding in space as figures of performance. Smart’s performance assemblages, inspired by choreography, point to the body’s capacity to express collective and individual anxiety.

The Ballets Russes was founded in Paris in 1909 by Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. The company’s reputation was, in large part, forged on its ground-breaking collaborations across creative fields, including projects with visual artists Pablo Picasso, Sonia Delaunay, Natalia Goncharova and Henri Matisse.

Parade—on which Smart’s installation is based—was a ballet choreographed by Leonide Massine, with music by Erik Satie and a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau. It premiered on May 18, 1917, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, with costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso in his first ballet commission.

An integral component of Picasso’s set design was the backdrop which simulated the exterior of a theatre, in front of which a troupe of carnival performers attempt to lure passers-by to their show through a ‘parade’ or procession of impromptu acts. In its focus on everyday carnival performers and street performance, Parade has been noted for its democratization of the ballet genre.

Geelong Gallery’s presentation of Smart’s P.A.R.A.D.E. follows The Violet Ballet, the first in the artist’s trilogy of works, exhibited at Ace Open for the 2019 Adelaide Festival. P.A.R.A.D.E. will invite critical and public engagement in the impulses of early modernist avant-garde artists whose experiments were brutally disrupted by war, totalitarianism and displacement. Smart posits a contemporary resonance with today’s geo-political climate and the worldwide disruption caused by COVID 19.

The Ballets Russes distinct mixing of modernity and Orientalism also parallels with another key element of Smart’s practice: her ongoing engagement with traditional Indonesian shadow puppet performances, which for Smart, open trans-national ideas about identity politics and the relationships between the body, thought and cultural histories.

Geelong Gallery Director & CEO, Jason Smith says, “We are delighted to present the work of one of Australia’s most critically acclaimed artists, and to present a new installation that aligns strongly with Geelong’s designation as a UNESCO City of Design. In P.A.R.A.D.E. we will see the presentation of new works augmenting a reconfiguration of some pre-existing components in a site-specific installation. The design and delivery of a performance work will be integral to the audiences’ experience.”

This exhibition opens on March 19, 2022 and will remain displayed through July 3, 2022. For more information visit