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
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
Sydney's biggest festival of Australian art is returning next year
Last year 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. Now we've got more details about the second iteration, including the full line-up of 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 curato
There’s no event as inextricably linked to summer in this city as Sydney Festival. The annual three-week event, running throughout January, always features an eclectic line-up of theatre, dance, circus, music, visual arts and talks. It’s primarily an arts festival, but its remit extends far beyond – it incorporates a ferrython on January 26 – to get you out and about any way that it can. This festival is Wesley Enoch’s third, and he’s just extended his contract for another two years, meaning he’ll also helm the 2020 and 2021 festivals. For 2019, he’s got two particular things on his mind. The first is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, which Enoch says we could look to as a model for how we can tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. “It was a collective cultural ambition around the world, even through competition,” he says. “This idea that 50 years ago, without war, there were great technological advances, and a great collective pursuit and understanding of the world. “It cost billions of dollars even then. For me, there’s a lovely connection with climate change, and this idea that actually we need more collective approaches to dealing with this rather than the individual, even though the politics of the day are very much about individualism.” There are several moon-focused installations in his festival, including a series of “moon drops” at Darling Harbour, which invite locals to jump or roll over giant water-filled droplets. The second of Enoch’s preoccup
News and interviews
You might also like...
Eat and drink your way through Parramatta
Naturally Sydney’s “second CBD” Parramatta has a thriving food and drink scene. Thanks to the delicious cuisines of the many diverse communities who call it home, Parramatta is bursting at the seams with hole-in-the-wall eateries, heaving family restaurants, and a new in-flux of uber cool cocktail bars. But where to start? Never fear, we’ve got some hot food tips under our (expanding) belts for you. Kickstart your Parramatta food trip with robust coffee and memorable brekkie. Circa Espresso has got the breakfast goods with their signature Ottoman Eggs – a Middle Eastern-inspired egg and eggplant dish given that extra zing from garlicky labneh and crispy fried sage and leek. Try a caffeinated brew with a view at the riverside Armory Wharf Café with their Sriracha eggs – a blue swimmer crab laden breakfast of champions. Top it off with a mid-morning sweet treat and ignite your Instagram likes with one of Bay Vista dessert bar and café’s towering desserts. Parramatta (and neighbouring Harris Park) is so rich with fantastic Indian restaurants we devoted an entire feature to it. Head to Billu’s Indian eatery for their signature tandoori chicken and classic thaalis, or hunt down our pick for the best biryani in Sydney from Hyderabad House. Finish your tasty trip into ‘Little India’ with a rainbow-hued treat from Chatkazz sweets or a delightfully sticky gulab jamun from Taj Indian Sweets and Restaurant. As the sun sets take your full belly to one of Parramatta’s fun bars and brew
Join the launch party for the kooky new bar above the Marly
The team at the Marly are finally ready to unveil their absurdist new creation, Cuckoo. Designed in collaboration with Monster Children and International World Wide (the Norfolk, the Old Fitz), Cuckoo will be more than a new bar. They’re not giving too many details away, so to properly investigate what wonders await, you’ll want to ascend the stairs on October 18 and jump down the rabbit hole at the launch party. What can you expect from this curious new venture? They’re promising an uninhibited and raucous attitude. Think wood panelling and retro style – with just the right amount of kitsch mountain décor. Insta moments will abound: visitors will be able to test their skills on an epic indoor climbing wall, for instance. Crusty giant pretzels will be your primary bar snack, designed to be dunked in delicious condiments from the vast array housed in the “Condiment Kingdom”. Schnitzels will be the star of the main menu, and you’ll have the chance to sample a rainbow of schnapps in between bouts on the dancefloor. Cuckoo will be creating this beloved European concoction in house, and since cocktails simply can’t be ignored at a party, you’ll likely spot a few fruity distillations in your more elaborate drinks. If all this heady aband
See the Australian thriller Splinter in Sydney
This thriller by Hillary Bell follows a couple whose missing five-year-old daughter returns after nine months missing – with no scratches and no explanation. They're forced to grapple with the uncertainties of their past and move forward under enormously difficult circumstances. “There was this play that I read before it went into production at Sydney Theatre Company, which I loved but didn’t get to direct, and it stayed with me always,” Griffin Theatre Company's artistic director Lee Lewis says of Bell’s work. The original production played in Sydney in 2012, would usually count a play out of a major revival for at least a few more years, however, Lewis wanted to challenge that expectation during her time at Griffin. “There’ve been extraordinary plays that have been written over the last 20 years which aren’t old enough to be considered classics so we can’t do a ‘classic revival’, but we could just do the damn play again because it’s good.” Starring Hilary Bell’s sister Lucy Bell and Les Miserables star Simon Gleeson, this claustrophobic chamber piece questions how well we know our families. Splinter runs until October 12 at the Griffin Theatre Company. Further details and tickets are available here.
IKEA launches an Australian Slow TV channel
IKEA caused a bit of a stir in marketing circles a couple of years ago with its series of deliberately boring YouTube commercials. These included a teenager doing the dishes for five minutes, a couple on a couch kissing in front of a TV for eight, and some young people arm wrestling for six. The ads played in front of YouTube content and many people skipped them, but they also garnered a cult following of joyfully disbelieving fans. The ads were inspired by the Scandinavian trend of ‘Slow TV’ in which almost nothing happens – designed as an antidote to our over-stimulated lives (some cool examples of Slow TV screened on SBS last summer). Now, IKEA is using the phenomenon as a way of promoting their new 2020 catalogue. They have launched an Australian Slow TV channel live streaming the 14-day (336-hour) journey of its products in shipping containers on board a ship to Australia. The channel, which in perfect Nordic understatement IKEA says “does not aim to excite”, is narrated by Kent and Sara Eriksson, narrators of the original IKEA Sleep Podcast. The Swedes are reading from the new IKEA catalogue with the sound of waves gently crashing against the ship’s stern in the background. Sounds a bit – well, dull, right? And that’s exactly the point. IKEA say they want to help Australians get a good night’s sleep, and watching this YouTube channel may indeed have that exact effect. And if you’re inspired to go buy a new IKEA bed to do it on, well that’s entirely up to you. The c