Biennale of Sydney

Nicholas Galanin

Nicholas Galanin, Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan Part I [We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left In Our Care Part I], 2006 (video still) single channel video, 4:37 mins, Courtesy the artist

Nicholas Galanin

Born 1979 in Sitka, Alaska, USA
Lives and works in Sitka


Nicholas Galanin’s work engages contemporary culture from his perspective, rooted in connection to land. He embeds incisive observation into his work, investigating intersections of culture and concept in form, image and sound. Galanin's works embody critical thought as vessels of knowledge, culture and technology – inherently political, generous, unflinching, and poetic. 

Galanin engages past, present and future to expose intentionally obscured collective memory and barriers to the acquisition of knowledge. His works critique commodification of culture, while contributing to the continuum of Tlingit art. Galanin employs materials and processes that expand dialogue on Indigenous artistic production, and how culture can be carried. His work is in numerous public and private collections and exhibited worldwide. Galanin apprenticed with master carvers, earned his BFA at London Guildhall University, and his MFA at Massey University. He lives and works with his family in Sitka, Alaska.

"Culture is rooted in connection to land. Like land, culture cannot be contained. I am inspired by generations of Tlingit and Unangax̂ creative production and knowledge, connected to the land I belong to.

"From this perspective, I engage across cultures with contemporary conditions. My process of creation is a constant pursuit of freedom and vision for the present and future. Using Indigenous and non-Indigenous technologies and materials, I resist romanticisation, categorisation and limitation. I use my work to explore adaptation, resilience, survival, active cultural amnesia, dream, memory, cultural resurgence, connection to and disconnection from the land."

Exhibited Artwork

Nicholas Galanin, Tsu Héidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care), Part I, 2006, single-channel digital video, black and white, sound 4:37 mins. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from the US Consulate General Sydney. Courtesy the artist

Photograph: Installation view (2020) photographed in the Grand Courts at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Location: Art Gallery of New South Wales

Nicholas Galanin, Shadow on the Land, an excavation and bush burial, 2020 earthworks, archaeological dig tools. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from the United States Government

Location: Cockatoo Island