The best public art in Sydney
Public art – in any city – is a notoriously fraught business. No matter how hard you try to make everyone happy, every work will have its detractors. Some more than others, of course. Notable spats in Sydney’s public art history include the time residents threatened to dismantle Ken Unsworth’s ‘poo on sticks’ sculpture in Darlinghurst (it still stands); the time NSW Parliamentarian Helen Sham-Ho said Lin Li’s ‘Golden Water Mouth’ sculpture in Chinatown “looks like a penis”; and the time Oz editor Richard Neville ran a cover photo of himself and two others peeing into Tom Bass’s P&O Wall Fountain. That said, who could possibly argue for a city without public art? It’s (mostly) good for the eyes, good for the soul, and improves even the most uninviting locations. It’s also good for business, which has been part of the drive in Sydney over the last decade to revitalise laneways and commercial precincts with commissions from contemporary artists, architects and designers. In 2007, the City of Sydney appointed their first Public Art Advisory Panel – a mix of artists, curators and architects that currently includes Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah and installation artist Janet Laurence. Now you know who to thank/complain to. Since it’s Art Month in Sydney, we thought we’d share some of our favourite public art works in Sydney.
Where to find Sydney's best street art
Sydney is home to a vibrant community of street artists, always ready to bring a splash of colour, a touch of provocation, or just the perfect Instagram backdrop to our city’s streets. But as with just about every piece of real estate in Sydney, these unlikely canvases are hotly contested spaces – important artworks are frequently painted over and there’ve been quite a few public spats over some of our more politically charged works. Here’s our pick of the city’s essential hotspots and artworks. Continue your art adventure around the city with the best exhibitions this month and Sydney’s best galleries. RECOMMENDED: Sydney's best laneways.
Your guide to contemporary, fine and Indigenous art in Sydney
The best places to see art in Sydney
Sydney is busting at the seams with great art – from major institutions like the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art, to incredible privately-owned but publically accessible (and free!) galleries like White Rabbit and Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, and right down to a thriving scene of independent and artist-run initiatives. Below are some of our favourites.
Upcoming events and exhibitions
The Essential Duchamp
You mightn't know all that much about Marcel Duchamp, but you've probably heard about how he shocked the art world by exhibiting a urinal as an artwork. Duchamp’s idea of presenting ‘readymades’ or ordinary manufactured objects as works of art tested, pushed and helped shape the art world's very fabric. And you can see how he came to that influential position and evolved his art in this exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, featuring that very urinal – 'Fountain' (1950) – alongside 125 other pieces of Duchamp’s work, spanning six decades. Drawn from Philadelphia's Museum of Art’s extensive collection of works by Duchamp, as well as its incomparable library and archival holdings, The Essential Duchamp offers audiences an insight into his life as much as his work. The exhibition includes early works never seen before in the Asia-Pacific region, including 'Portrait of Dr Dumouchel' (1910), 'Sonata' (1911) and 'Chocolate Grinder (No 2)' (1914). There's also another of his key, early breakthrough works: 'Nude Descending a Staircase (No 2)' (1912). While it might've given Duchamp his break, the painting scandalised American audiences, who labelled it as ‘unintelligible’.
The National Biennial of New Australian Art
In 2017 three of Sydney's biggest art institutions launched the first iteration of The National, a biennial (meaning it happens once every two years) festival of contemporary Australian art. Almost 300,000 people turned out across the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Carriageworks to see works from our leading artists, many of which were made specifically for the exhibition. The artworks ran the gamut from paintings, photographs and drawings to large-scale sculptures, video works and installations. The National happens in the off-years of the Biennale of Sydney, filling that biennale-shaped hole in your heart. The galleries have planned to run the event three times – 2017, 2019 and 2021 – but if all of Sydney turns out to support it they might just extend. See these three artists' works at this year's exhibition. The second iteration features 65 artists drawn from all across the country and all stages of their careers. While each has its own theme, all three institutions are presenting a diverse line-up of artists who are responding to the state of the world as it currently stands but drawing in historical and cultural perspectives. The curatorial team for 2019 draws together staff members from all the institutions: AGNSW curator of photographs, Isobel Parker Philip; Carriageworks senior curator of visual arts, Daniel Mudie Cunningham; and MCA curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections and exhibitions, Clothilde Bullen with MCA cura
Artworks from Hokusai and Murakami are coming to Sydney in an epic Japanese exhibition
For the last two years, the Art Gallery of NSW has focussed on Europe in its big summer exhibitions: the Netherlands in Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age (2017-18), and Russia and France in Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage (2018-19). But next summer is all about Japan with an epic exhibition of more than 200 artworks from artists past and present. Japan Supernatural will be at the AGNSW from late 2019 and features most prominently work from the country's most influential artist, Katsushika Hokusai – there's no word yet if one of the many prints of his 'Great Wave' masterpiece will be making its way to Sydney – and pieces from superstar artist Takashi Murakami, who'll show a massive supernatural installation in the gallery. If you've never heard of Murakami, here's what you need to know: he's collaborated with Louis Vuitton, designed the covers for two Kanye West albums and directed one of his music videos, and in 2008 was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people. The AGNSW exhibition is promising to take a broad view on Japanese art and be "theatrical" and "multisensory". Colour us intrigued. There'll be paintings, prints, Japanese cinema and animation, sculpture, contemporary comics and games. There's work from Japan's past from Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Kawanabe Kyosai, with contemporary work from Chiho Aoshima and Miwa Yanagi. Don't wait until the end of 2019: Head to this summer's big show at the AGNSW a
Cornelia Parker is bringing her bold art installations to Sydney
This year, the Museum of Contemporary Art's big summer show is impressive but a touch on the modest side: a career retrospective of South African photographer David Goldblatt. Next year they're back into more obvious summer blockbuster territory, with an exhibition focussed on British artist Cornelia Parker. Parker is considered one of England's biggest and most influential art stars from the last few decades and was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. But the thing that really excites us? In 1995 she collaborated with Tilda Swinton on a performance work in which Swinton slept inside a glass case, in public view, in the middle of a gallery. As far as we know, Swinton won't be napping at the MCA. Cornelia Parker at the Parliament of the United Kingdom Photograph: Jessica Taylor Instead, at the centre of the MCA's exhibition is Parker's breakthrough work from 1991, 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View', which features a garden shed she had the actual British Army blow up with explosives. She then suspended all the fragments as they appeared in the moment immediately after explosion and placed a bright light in the centre of them, casting shadows of those fragments all around the gallery space. It's those large-scale installations for which she's best known, transforming everyday objects and suspending them in that moment of transformation. But the exhibition goes a lot further than that, and will feature more than 40 artworks, including sculp
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This spectacular light and art festival is your reason to visit Alice Springs
People usually visit Australia’s red centre for one of two reasons: to marvel at a place of extraordinary natural beauty, or to connect with the Indigenous cultures that have persisted for tens of thousands of years. But when you arrive in Alice Springs, it becomes immediately clear that these two aims aren’t so easily separated. This place is home to the world’s oldest living culture, and their stories, lives and legacies have been shaped by the country. And you can’t really understand that country without understanding some of those stories. That’s part of the purpose of Parrtjima, an annual festival of Aboriginal art and culture that lights up Alice Springs Desert Park with art installations and large-scale projections. At its centre is a massive light show that covers more than two kilometres of the Macdonnell Ranges for ten nights from April 5 to 14. Photograph: James Horan There are also projections that bring paintings to life, large communal spaces, and an inflatable artwork – which yes, children are invited to jump on – reflecting the dot painting pioneered in the central desert region. This year’s festival coincides with United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, and the light show will be narrated by Alice Springs-born actor Aaron Pedersen. There are shows from musicians Baker Boy and Mojo Juju and a talk from leading academic Bruce Pascoe, whose book Dark Emu challenged many of the myths we hold about Aboriginal people. The dazzling displ
John Kaldor has revealed the artist for his next public art project
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Kaldor Public Art Projects, John Kaldor's ambitious organisation specialising in site-specific and frequently large-scale public artworks by mostly international artists. It kicked off in 1969 with Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 'Wrapped Coast', which featured 95,000 square metres of fabric, wrapping two kilometres of coastline in Little Bay. Since then, the participating artists have included Gilbert & George, Jeff Koons, Michael Landy and Marina Abramović. This year's project, the 34th in the series, will be headed up by Asad Raza, a New York-based artist who specialises in live art experiences. His previous works include 'Untitled (plot for dialogue)', where he installed a game of tennis in a deconsecrated Milan church, and 'Root sequence. Mother tongue', which featured 26 living trees and caretakers installed inside the Whitney Museum in New York. One of his most famous pieces was 'home show', in which he allowed 30 artists to change his New York home and impose rituals upon him, and invited visitors on a tour of his home every day for five weeks. Details are still scant about his Sydney project, but Raza is collaborating with biologists and environmental scientists to transform the Clothing Store building on the Carriageworks site. There'll be organic elements (plants, perhaps?) inside the building, and a variety of scenes and participants who you can interact and speak with. He says that he thinks of himself as a producer and th
The Art Gallery of NSW has revealed final plans for its new $344 million gallery
It's been more than three years since Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA won the contract to design the Sydney Modern project – the Art Gallery of New South Wales' $344 million expansion, branching off from the original gallery building with a series of major new exhibition spaces – and now we finally have a better sense of what it'll be like to visit the gallery when it finally opens. Even more exciting – the project has finally got planning approval and there's a timeline locked in. Construction is due to begin early next year, and Sydney Modern will open in 2021 to coincide with the gallery's 150th anniversary. Image of the Sydney Modern Project as produced by Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA © Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2018 According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a number of changes have been made to the original design to get approval on a project that's been pretty controversial at times (even Paul Keating had a typically colourful spray about the plans). The façade of the expansion will be changed from its original cool whites and greys to a warmer natural stone colour that's closer to the original sandstone building, and the gallery has agreed to increase green space and ensure that 65 per cent of the site (formerly parklands in the Domain) will remain publicly accessible 24 hours a day. The project will almost double its available exhibition space, so the gallery is hoping it will increase annual visitor numbers from last year's 1.35 million
7 reasons to visit Adelaide Festival next March
Every major capital city in Australia has its own arts festival, but ask those who work in the industry and most will tell you the same thing: Adelaide Festival is the big one. It has a history of attracting the most significant artists in the world. It’s been running since 1960, but its scope is so big it only became an annual event in 2012. Basically, it’s where to go if you want to binge on cutting-edge, high-profile, large-scale international art. The last two years, under co-artistic directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy, have been particularly impressive, and they’ve just announced a third festival for 2019, with 23 shows exclusive to Adelaide and ten world premieres. Things kick off with Australian expat-turned-European opera heavyweight Barrie Kosky’s production of The Magic Flute on March 1, 2019. That production will totally sell out, but here are seven other reasons to book that ticket and try not to drown in art. 1. This music theatre production crosses through six African countries South African theatre company Isango Ensemble’s A Man of Good Hope has toured the world extensively but is making its Australian debut at Adelaide Festival. And it’s somewhat appropriate that this work (part opera, part musical) should’ve travelled so far given it’s a story of travel itself. It follows eight-year-old Asad Abdullahi, who, after witnessing the murder of his mother, sets off on an extraordinary journey from Somalia to find a new home. Photograph: Keith Pattison
Nick Cave's epic artworks use extreme beauty to tackle the world's ugliness
Nick Cave creates fiercely beautiful, emotive and highly theatrical immersive art. He is part installation artist, part choreographer, part costumer, part sculptor, part sound artist and unceasing educator. His latest piece at Carriageworks sees him employ almost all of these disciplines to address some of the most pressing issues of our time: race relations, gender politics and gun violence. The title, “UNTIL”, is a play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” or, in this case, “guilty until proven innocent.” Lisa Havilah, Carriageworks’ outgoing director, said, “I think the magic of Nick Cave is he draws you in with extreme beauty but within that world he really seduces you to think in a different way.” Hers is a perfect description of the power of Cave’s work. Photograph: Daniel Boud UNTIL was created to shift hearts and minds, and is Carriageworks’ largest commission yet – co-commissioned with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), where it premiered in 2016, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. “I want to raise consciousness” Cave told Time Out. “My choice of materials or medium, or how I do this, changes year to year, but my objective always remains to create connection between people and to raise consciousness on important issues… Art can and will change attitudes.” His vision is extraordinary, using glass, light, scale and optimism to bust open the barriers. The sheer magnitude of the installation (90 per cen
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Five must-try cocktails at the Winery’s Bar Schweppes pop-up this month
Something special is going on at the Winery for a limited time only until Sunday May 5. Schweppes are taking over the venue with Bar Schweppes, a month-long pop-up celebrating their new range of Signature Series Mixers and craft soft drinks. They have teamed up with three of the country’s best industry talents to create the first range of mixers advised on by professional bartenders in Australia. Enter: Charlie Ainsbury, the former co-owner of This Must Be the Place in Darlinghurst; Jess Arnott, top three in MasterChef Australia 2015 and ex-Chula in Potts Point; and Chris Hysted, three-time Australian Bartender of the Year. This gang have helped to come up with some elevated and versatile mixers that will appear in these sensational cocktails at $15 a pop, as well as at Dan Murphy’s stores nationwide. Photograph: Supplied Blossom and Tonic This cocktail uses Schweppes Signature Series Bright Tonic, which is made during a 12-month process and less bitter on the palate than your average tonic with the addition of orange oil, lemon oil and Javanese cinchona bark (which adds the necessary quinine to make tonic water). The tonic is then added to gin, blanco vermouth and elderflower cordial, and the whole thing is topped with lemongrass and baby’s breath to deliver a refreshing and citrusy kick to the classic G&T. This one is a perfect starter to ease your way into the rest of the list. Photograph: Supplied La Vida Collins A Tom Collins that switches out gin for white rum,
Ranting and pedantic aren’t usually two words which are associated with being hilarious, but UK comedian Paul Foot’s absurd musings have won him multiple awards, including the BBC New Comedy award and voted Best of the Fest in 2013 at the Sydney Comedy Festival. He’s back on our shores to deliver his new show, Image Conscious in April. In his new show, the fast-talking comedian will move from topics like the reality of a soft-shell crab to the administrative and logistical nightmare of hosting an orgy with his trademark jerky movements and sometimes frantic delivery. It’s an odd prospect, watching a man work himself up into a frenzy over iceberg lettuce, but the combination is comic gold. His previous turn in Sydney was in 2017 with ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Piglet, which marked 20 years in comedy. Throughout that time, he’s become known for his rejection of anything pop culture (think leather motorcycle jacket, paisley tie and a pants and belt combo that may never have been in vogue) and his surrealist view of the world. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Foot live, a quick google search will send you a myriad gala spots which will either have you chuckling or wondering if he’s a little bit insane. You can also catch him on various UK TV and Radio slots, including Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Would I Lie to You, 8 out of 10 cats and The Infinite Monkey Cage. Be sure to nab a spot at his Sydney show Image Conscious on April 26-28.
English Baroque with Circa
The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Brisbane-based performance company Circa are back to deliver a collaboration which mixes 16th and 17th-century music with acrobatics and contemporary circus. English Baroque with Circa is the third installment from the two companies, who previously teamed up to create the Helpmann award-winning performance French Baroque in 2015 and again in 2017 with Spanish Baroque to a sell-out crowd. The dazzling combination of contemporary movement with 500-year-old English masque and theatre music will premiere at the Canberra International Music Festival before heading on to Sydney's City Recital Hall, arguably one of the only concert spaces in the city with acoustics superb enough to match the tumbling commotion on stage. Artistic director Paul Dyer of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Yaron Lifschitz of Circa have created an inspired pasticcio with works from English composers Henry Purcell, John Playford and John Dowland woven together into one piece. Celebrated soprano Jane Sheldon, who starred in The Howling Girls with the Sydney Chamber Orchestra in 2018, will be sharing the stage with Circa acrobats and the Brandenburg musicians. Tickets start from $30, with $41 seats for under 30's. The Sydney season is only running for six shows before moving on around the country. If this performance is anything like the previous offerings from the duo, this daring collaboration will enchant from start to finish.
11 top things to do in Queenstown
Queenstown really packs a lot in. Not only is it the largest ski resort in New Zealand – during the peak season the picturesque Southern Alps are dotted with snow bunnies like kiwifruit on giant white pavlovas – it’s also the home of bungy jumping and all manner of heart-stopping adventure activities. Food and wine lovers are well catered for, too.