Detail of Pumpkin chess (2003) by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama
Detail of Pumpkin chess (2003) by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama
25 February 2011

Famous artists including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin will be among the players when two chess-themed exhibitions open at The University of Queensland tomorrow, February 26.

The Art of Chess, which features works by 15 of some of the most acclaimed international contemporary artists, was secured by UQ Art Museum in collaboration with Bendigo Art Gallery for an exclusive Australian tour.

"The game of chess is traditionally perceived as a subdued, cerebral and introspective activity," curator Tansy Curtin said.

"However, the creation of new artworks informed by the notion of the game of chess adds a new dimension to the game itself: chess acquires a new visual persona; beauty and drama alongside intrigue and threat become implicit aspects of the game."

The exhibition incorporates innovative and curious chess sets commissioned from artists including Maurizio Cattelan (Italy), Jake and Dinos Chapman (UK), Oliver Clegg (UK), Tracey Emin (UK), Tom Friedman (USA), Paul Fryer (UK), Damien Hirst (UK), Barbara Kruger (USA), Yayoi Kusama (Japan), Paul McCarthy (USA), Alastair Mackie (UK), Matthew Ronay (USA), Tunga (Brazil), Gavin Turk (UK) and Rachel Whiteread (UK).

Facing off against this stellar line-up is Your Move: Australian artists play chess.

Inspired by The Art of Chess, Bendigo Art Gallery commissioned 13 Australian artists to produce 12 works, commissioned as part of the largest grant ever awarded by Visions of Australia.

Artists featured in Your Move include Benjamin Armstrong, Lionel Bawden, Sebastian Di Mauro, Michael Doolan, Emily Floyd, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, Robert Jacks, Danie Mellor, Kate Rohde, Caroline Rothwell, Sally Smart and Ken Yonetani.

Players in the away team include extraordinary spotted fungal sculptures by Yayoi Kusama; a finely crafted set of glass and silver pill bottles with surgical trolley chessboard by Damien Hirst; and a good versus evil set by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan that pits Hitler, Rasputin and Al Capone against Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Superman.

Players in Your Move include human-animal hybrids, literary characters and beer bottles and coasters set up to play on a rickety Australian picnic table.

“You don’t have to play chess or know its history to enjoy the strategies played out by the artists in this exhibition – and, indeed, not all the commissioned artists themselves are chess players,” Acting Director of the UQ Art Museum Michele Helmrich said.

“But, as the legendary artist and chess player Marcel Duchamp said: ‘while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists’.”

A diverse program of public events will include opportunities to watch members of the UQ Chess Club do battle and even challenge them to a game.

The Art of Chess Your Move: Australian artists play chess appear at UQ Art Museum until April 24.

Opening week Public Programs

Saturday 26 February

11.00am – curator floor talk by Tansy Curtin of Bendigo Art Gallery
12.00pm – artist talks by Michael Doolan, Caroline Rothwell, local artist Sebastian Di Mauro
2.00 – 4.00pm – a giant chess game outside the Art Museum with members of the UQ Chess Club

Monday 28 February – Friday 4 March

10.00am – 3.00pm – members of the UQ Chess Club do battle in the Art Museum. Visitors may watch or challenge a member of the club to a game.

Media: Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, or Michele Helmrich at UQ Art Museum (07 3365 3946,

The Art of Chess is organised by the UQ Art Museum in association with RS&A, London.

Your Move: Australian artists play chess, a Bendigo Art Gallery travelling exhibition, is sponsored by Visions of Australia, an Australian Government program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance to the development and touring of Australian cultural material across Australia; City of Greater Bendigo; K.W. Doggett Fine Paper (supporting Lionel Bawden’s work); and International Art Services.