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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Indulge in InterContinental Sydney's new seafood buffet
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Win a pass to Sydney's newest escape rooms for you and your friends
If your idea of a great time with your crew is playing detective and solving riddles, then you'll want to check out the city's newest escape rooms in Sydney's inner west. Myst Escape Rooms in Glebe have four themed experiences and they all have custom props and interactive technologies to make the life-size riddles more fun. New at this? You can start with one-hour experiences like the vampire-themed Dracula's Dark Awakening and the treasure finding quest of Pirate's Gold. But if you've been working your way through Sydney's escape rooms and feel like a challenge, the Cursed Tomb is the escape room for you. It's a two-hour journey into a sinister ancient tomb that involves the members of your team being separated and working together to escape the tomb unharmed. Maybe your favourite part of any game is the 'boss fight', in that case you'll want to try the Ancient Palace immersive theatre experience, which is made for six to 12 players. The concept: a murder mystery at a grim birthday party in the Qing Dynasty. Your role: get into character with professional actors to crack the case and prove your innocence. If you're intrigued, you could win one of three complimentary passes to experience the Dracula's Dark Awakening or the Pirate's Gold escape rooms. With one of these passes, you can gather a group of four to eight people, so make sure you bring a solid crew. To win a pass, simply enter the competition through the link below before 10am, Friday June 21. Enter now
Merivale is cutting your evening bar tab by 49 per cent in June
We love a good happy hour here in Sydney. Hell, most evenings the glorious post-work 60-minute drinks special will often last for more like two or three hours. But for the month of June, hospo giant Merivale is cranking it up a notch. For the second year running, they’re offering a 49 per cent discount on drinks from 5-7pm for the whole month, just to give you a fab start to every evening. Photograph: Anna Kucera And you won’t be limited to ho-hum house wine or bulk standard beer. The special covers everything on the drinks list up to $200, so you can splash out without getting all your cash out. The best part? Merivale’s venues stretch from the CBD to the Inner West, the shores of the Northern Beaches and by the sand in the Eastern Suburbs, so you can make your way through the fancy end of menus at 39 very cool bars and pubs across town. But if you’ve got a particular booze experience you’d like to knock over during this month of cheap hacks, you’ll need to study up. If you’re all about complex cocktails with a per-page description and ingredient list, head to Charlie Parker’s in Paddington. This subterranean joint will fix you a fantastical drink filled with seasonal produce and mixed with chef-like dedication. Try the Strawberry, which is a surprising blend of soy sauce, evaporated coffee, bitter orange and tonic water. Photograph: Anna Kucera Whisky hounds should make a beeline for J&M. You can while away the evening sipping smooth, top-shelf single malt pours for so