PICA’s History

PICA incorporated in 1989 but its emergence was preceded by the commitment and hard work undertaken over five years by its founders. Securing PICA’s eventual location, in what was originally the Perth Central School in the heart of the Cultural Centre was fundamental to that process.

The new organisation partly, ‘follow[ed] on from Praxis (Western Australia’s former Contemporary Art Space now amalgamated with PICA), which had a fifteen-year history of producing an important program of visual arts exhibitions, publications and special projects. Praxis had been a part of a network of contemporary art spaces across Australia, organisations which had their origins in the alternative spaces of the 1970s, and which at their best have been critical, challenging and provocative.

The intention of those people and groups involved in the development of the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts was that it would provide a new forum for the analysis and presentation of critical and contemporary art practice. This practice would include the visual arts, music, dance and performance along with their contemporary and interdisciplinary variants but would be wider than any list of art forms… Fundamental to the concept of PICA was that culture was not an isolated province but intimately connected to the social, economic, psychological and political dimensions of contemporary life.’ 1

Noel Sheridan was appointed the inaugural Director of PICA (1989-1993) and oversaw the initial renovation of the building. He was succeeded by Sarah Miller (1993-2006) who continued PICA’s development into one of the country’s most innovative, best known and loved contemporary arts venues in Australia. In 2006 PICA’s current Director Amy Barrett-Lennard was appointed. She eagerly returned to Perth after stints in London, Kalgoorlie and Melbourne to build on PICA’s success.

1. John Barrett-Lennard, ‘A spacious central location…’, catalogue essay for A spacious central location: installations for PICA and the Cultural Centre, (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1990), p.4