Every summer the Sydney Festival presents the most intriguing, biggest and best of the world's performing and visual arts, all coming together in an avalanche of artistic activity. Opening on 7 January, the 2016 Sydney Festival brings unique spaces across the city to life - from the central business district to Parramatta - and makes the most of Sydney's leading cultural institutions and venues including UNSW Galleries.

This January UNSW Galleries features the Australian premieres of two new exhibitions by international artists, London-based photographer Eva Vermandel and Albanian video artist Adrian Paci.

Adrian Paci: The Column

Adrian Paci works with non-professional actors to explore the many existential and social problems of our era: migration and displacement, globalization and cultural identity.

After representing Albania at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and exhibiting at the MoMa PS1 in New York in 2005, his work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions: Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Kunstverein, Hanover, Tel Aviv Contemporary Art Centre, Bloomberg Space in London and Kunsthaus Zurich. Among numerous group shows, he has participated in Manifesta 3 in Ljubljana (2000), the Venice Biennale (2005), Tate Modern, London (2008), Maxxi Rome, Lyon Biennial and Havana Biennial (2011).

The Column enthralled attendees at the most recent Venice Architecture Biennale (2014). This video installation traces the epic journey of an enormous slab of marble, extracted from the ground and taken to sea. En route to Italy and over the course of its grand voyage, tireless and remarkably skilled Chinese workers toil to chisel and carve it into the shape of a magnificent classical column.

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40 Portraits by Eva Vermandel

To celebrate the 40th edition of the Sydney Festival, Eva Vermandel has brought the Festival's history to life with an evocative series of portraits. The Festival’s collaborative spirit is visualised in Vermandel’s timeless photography, capturing everyone from internationally renowned artists like Kate Champion and David Byrne to behind-the-scenes staff, volunteers and audience members; a tribute to the enthusiasm and dedication of people both on and offstage.

Vermandel's portraits draw inspiration from artists such as Courbet, Picasso, Munch, Holbein, the Flemish Primitives and even novelists such as DH Lawrence. She has had solo exhibitions at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin, the Whitechapel Gallery and the ICA in London. Her work is in the collections of the V&A, the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Portrait Gallery, London.

All portraits in the 40 Portraits exhibition were taken during the summer of 2015 across four continents.

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RSVP for the Opening Night at UNSW Galleries Thursday, 7 January, 6-8pm.

Discover the complete Sydney Festival 2016 program here.