James Turrell 'Sight unseen' 2013 Ganzfeld: LED light Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese (Italy)  © James Turrell photograph © Florian Holzherr
James Turrell 'Sight unseen' 2013 Ganzfeld: LED light Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese (Italy)  © James Turrell photograph © Florian Holzherr
James Turrell 'Sight unseen' 2013 Ganzfeld: LED light Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese (Italy)  © James Turrell photograph © Florian Holzherr
James Turrell 'Raemar pink white' 1969 Shallow space construction: fluorescent light Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, California © James Turrell photograph © Florian Holzherr

About the exhibitionLight and perception

James Turrell in front of Roden Crater at sunset, 2001 
						(c) Florian Holzherr

James Turrell in front of Roden Crater at sunset, 2001 © Florian Holzherr

We eat light, drink it in through our skins. With a little more exposure to light, you feel part of things physically. I like the power of light and space physically because then you can order it materially. Seeing yourself seeing is a very sensuous act—there’s a sweet deliciousness to feeling yourself see something.

James Turrell: a retrospective explores the artist’s work over almost 50 years, bringing together Projection pieces, built spaces, holograms, drawings, prints and photographs. It celebrates Skyspaces, viewing chambers that affect our perception of the sky, and surveys Turrell’s life work, Roden Crater, a naked eye observatory in an extinct volcano on the edge of the Painted Desert, Arizona. The exhibition follows three highly successful shows throughout 2013—at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Guggenheim in New York—with works from LACMA’s tour and spectacular installations purpose-built for Canberra.

Since the 1960s James Turrell has made art from light. He studied mathematics and perceptual psychology, and his background as a Quaker and training as a pilot also inform his practice. After his first sculptures using fire, Turrell began to construct projections that produce illusionistic geometric shapes. Afrum (white) 1966, for example, appears as a hovering cube of light.

Raemar pink white 1969 plays with our perceptions, like a large, luminescent pink canvas levitating in front of a wall. Turrell uses a range of fluorescent, tungsten, fibre-optic, LED and natural light. His art is now located across the globe in permanent installations in museums and private collections—Within without 2010, the Skyspace at the National Gallery of Australia, is one of the most beautiful.

In the 1980s and 90s Turrell developed works that expose visitors to total darkness or isolate an individual in a contained environment. After green 1993 is an immersive installation: its intense red, with soft and hard edges, make it disorientating and exquisite. Bindu shards 2010 is a light cycle for one person, a bodily kaleidoscope with patterns of crystals, shards of light, stars, galaxies and nebulae. This Ganzfeld is part of Turrell’s largest and most marvellous series to date. Once inside, saturated in colour, with no edges or corners, we are uncertain of our surrounds—a feeling akin to walking on clouds. This is contemporary art as you’ve never seen before, and promises an experience not to be missed.

Visiting, learning + events

Public Programs
There are a range of public programs accompanying James Turrell: a retrospective, including talks, workshops for children and adults, performances and screenings. Please see the What’s on for upcoming events.

Light Lab: explore, create, share
Drop in at the Light Lab to explore Turrell Skyspaces from around the world, investigate the nature of perception and colour with a range of apps, create drawings with light, and discover light and colour in our world. Open daily during exhibition hours.

Education groups
School and tertiary groups are able to visit the exhibition for free between 9.00–10.00 am Monday to Friday in term one and two 2015. Limited places available and bookings are essential. For information related to booking click here.

Before or after visiting we encourage you to share your images of light and colour in your world: light at day or night, minimalist or patterned, inside or outside, bright or subtle…How do you see colour and light? #NGAlightscapes  facebook, Twitter, Instagram 


Australians love James Turrell

Colour is Light Turrell trail
The eye opening Turrell trail prompts young (and older) visitors to stop, look and reflect on the connections between light and colour, and how they affect perception.  Activities for families and teachers extend the experience by exploring key concepts contained within Turrell’s work



Mobile app

Light up your device with our free James Turrell: A Retrospective  App!

Explore the exhibition through an interactive map, watch interviews, and learn about James Turrell's Perceptual cell and Roden Crater. You can even purchase tickets and access visiting information ‚Äď it covers everything you need to know before you go!

Get it now for your chance to win a trip to the USA! Available for free download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play

Free WiFi is available within the Gallery.



Timed entry sessions available now

Due to the nature of the artwork, this exhibition has limited capacity. Advance reservations are advised. Timed sessions are in place with small groups allowed to enter the exhibition every 15 minutes.



Many of the pieces require solitude and time for the eyes to adjust and fully perceive the work.

Open 7 days. Closed Christmas Day only



Ticketek 1300 795 012
General information +61 2 6240 6411
Mobility assistance +61 2 6240 6411

Monday to Friday
Mon-Thur 10am – 4pm (last entry)
Fri 10am – 6pm (last entry)
Admission $25.49
Members $20.39
Students $20.39
Buy tickets
Weekends +
Public holidays
Sat 9am – 6pm (last entry)
Sun 9am – 4pm (last entry)
During Easter
Good Fri 9am – 4pm (last entry)
Easter Sat 9am – 6pm (last entry)
Easter Sun/Mon 9am – 4pm (last entry)
Admission $30.58
Members $20.39
Students $20.39
Buy tickets