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Ibrahim Mahama's stunning art din Cockatoo Island Turbine Hall
Photograph: Zan WimberleyIbrahim Mahama's stunning art decks the Turbine Hall.

Art exhibitions to see in Sydney this weekend

Here are the art exhibitions and events to check out this weekend – from inner city blockbusters to the outer burbs

Alannah Maher
Written by
Stephen A Russell
&
Alannah Maher
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Art lovers, your weekend is sorted. Here's our plan of everything you need to check out, from ticketed blockbusters to small-scale freebies. If you're looking further ahead, consult our list of art exhibitions to see in Sydney this month.

RECOMMENDED: The best art galleries in Sydney.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • price 0 of 4
  • Sydney

Australia’s favourite portrait prize is back for 2022, and as always it's a delight to see which famous faces have made it into the mix of painterly interpretations. This year over 800 paintings were submitted, and you can peruse the top 52 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until August 28, when they ship off around the country. This year Koori artist Blak Douglas took out the top gong, the $100,000 Archibald Prize, for a painting of his good friend and fellow artist Karla Dickens, depicted looking grumpy and holding leaking buckets as she stands in muddy water during the recent devastating floods in her hometown of Lismore in northern New South Wales.  The much-anticipated Packing Room Prize, which is judged by the Art Gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries, was awarded this year to Sydney-based artist Claus Stangl for his impressive 3D-style painting of beloved New Zealander writer, director, actor (and everyone’s crush) Taika Waititi. A highly commended honour was awarded this year to Sydney artist Jude Rae for her portrait of scientist, engineer and inventor Dr Saul Griffith. Rae is also a finalist in this year’s Wynne Prize with her landscape The white fig (Ficus cirens), Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Other notable portraits this year include a colourful depiction of Shane Jenek standing shoulder to shoulder with his drag alter-ego Courtney Act, a realistic painting of actor Hugh Jackman posed with his wife Deborra-Lee Furness, a cheeky lounging nude

  • Art
  • Installation
  • Sydney

Songlines are navigational tracks that map the routes of ancestral spirits as they travel across Australia, creating the land and its people. They carry stories, laws, values and knowledge, and are central to the world view of Aboriginal Australians. Open now at the Museum of Sydney, Walking Through a Songline is a spectacular digital art installation with deep cultural connections. Featuring swirling beams of light set against a chorus of sound, the work invites you to immerse yourself in a space where paintings come to life, stories are visualised and ancient knowledge is shared in a striking and artistic way.  As you follow in the footsteps of the Seven Sisters – a Dreamtime story of forbidden love, daring escapes and familial bonds – the culturally charged display will recreate the feeling of walking through a songline. You’ll surrender your understanding of time and space, and watch on in wonder as this ancient narrative comes to life through new technology. Walking Through a Songline is open Thursday through to Sunday until July 17 at the Museum of Sydney. You can enjoy free entry to the museum (including admission to this exhibition) on Fridays 5pm-8pm and every weekend until June 30. For more information, head to the website.

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  • Art
  • Installation
  • Sydney

Hyde Park Barracks is one of Sydney’s museum treasures: a beautifully preserved piece of convict architecture so impressive that its architect, convicted forger Francis Greenway, received an absolute pardon from Governor Macquarie on the building’s completion in 1819. Today, it’s blessed with many relics of colonial Sydney, along with a marvellous interactive, audio-guided tour, and tells the story of the founding of Sydney (and the subjugation of its Indigenous inhabitants) as vividly as any institution in the nation. One of the features that keeps it a vibrant place to visit is the Hyde Park Barracks Annual Art Commission, whereby a major artist installs a temporary work responding to the site. This year, Melbourne-based artist Daniel Crooks has been enlisted along with his new video installation, ‘Boundary Conditions’.  Presented on a giant monolithic screen hovering in the building’s courtyard, ‘Boundary Conditions’ juxtaposes the past and the present, the virtual and the real. It’s an artwork designed to resonate in our own period of change and uncertainty, manipulating slices of time that are not normally visible.    Crooks has used specially captured footage of Sydney Living Museums’ historic sites in this work which invites viewers to reconsider their understanding of history and reality, and also to reappraise the site of the Hyde Park Barracks itself. The artwork is in place until July 31 and is free to view – you can see it in the museum courtyard without buying a

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Camperdown

Now is your chance to check out the late modernist art collection that formed the basis of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Light and Darkness at the Chau Chak Wing Museum – the dynamic museum of art, science, history and ancient cultures at the University of Sydney – surveys art from the 1960s to the 1980s. It features internationally renowned artists from the era such as Bridget Riley, Roy Lichtenstein and Colin McCahon, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Robert Rauschenberg. The free exhibition draws on the University’s Power Collection, established in 1967 after J W Power bequeathed his fortune to the University to bring Australians “in more direct contact with the latest art developments in other countries”. Acquisitions ceased in 1989, shortly before the collection was moved off campus to form the basis of the MCA.  Established when most Australian museums and universities were taking a cautious approach to contemporary art, the Power Collection is exceptionally rich. This exploration of the collection is underpinned by the concepts of light and darkness – ‘light’ works were a major theme of the 1960s acquisitions of European-based avant-garde artists, and in the ’80s post-modernists took on the cloak of darkness “to symbolise the endgame of modernism or to question avant-garde originality” according to senior curator Dr Ann Stephen.  Light and Darkness will be exhibited in the museum’s largest space, the 420-square metre Ian Potter Gallery, until September 2022. A compani

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  • Art
  • The Rocks

If you find a deep sense of calm and satisfaction when visiting an art gallery, or perhaps if you’re looking to engage with art in a more meaningful way, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s new free mindfulness workshops could be just what you need. Visitors taking part in Art Flow will be led on a 45-minute contemplative experience by MCA artist-educators during which they will reflect on an artwork in the MCA collection, and perhaps themselves, in new ways. These sessions were developed over the last two years through extensive collaboration between the MCA and Melbourne based psychology practice, The Mind Room. “The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is excited to launch this new program, created in response to these post-Covid times, where connection and wellbeing are more important than ever. Being with art can help reduce stress and be a powerful source of wellbeing,” says Gill Nicol, MCA director of audience engagement. Art Flow is open to everyone over 18 years of age and no prior knowledge is necessary to participate. It will take place every Thursday and Saturday at 10.15am and 12.15pm from June 30. Each week, the artwork will change with four different Guided Experiences focusing on Australian artists. Each intimate session has an allocation of just ten people per group. Participation is free, however registrations are required. To find out more about each session or to register for a spot click here. Want more? Check out the best exhibitions in Sydney this month.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Darling Harbour

While the weather has been unpredictable at best, with winds and rain set to disrupt plans for the foreseeable future, there is one failsafe place you can go to commune with nature in comfort. Sydney is taking temporary custody of the 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. On loan from London’s Natural History Museum, this world-class collection of mesmerising images will be housed at the Australian National Maritime Museum from April 8. The most prestigious photography event of its kind, Wildlife Photographer of the Year focuses our attention on the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Over 50,000 entries from professional and amateur photographers all over the planet have been whittled down to a collection of just over 100 exceptional images which capture fascinating animal behaviour, spectacular species and the breathtaking diversity of the natural world. Seven winning Australian photographers made the cut this year.  This collection showcases not only the best of the natural world, but the patience, ingenuity and talent of the photographers who spend their time embedded within wildlife so that they can get that one incredible shot.  Put on your best Sir David Attenborough impression as you browse this spectacular collection of intimate animal portraits and astonishing landscapes, showcasing the beauty and diversity of nature and reflecting the environmental challenges the planet is experiencing, as well as the patience, ingenuity and talent of the phot

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  • Art
  • Sculpture and installations
  • Eveleigh

Internationally acclaimed Australian artist Mel O’Callaghan is expanding on her continued exploration of the relationship between life and "nonlife" in a new major exhibition at Carriageworks.  The exhibition, which has been curated by Aarna Fitzgerald Hanley, includes an ambitious sculptural installation activated by performances, a new sound work, and a two-channel film capturing the sacred eco-feminist festival Dhalo, shot by the artist on a recent trip to Ambaulim, Goa in India. All is Life is spread across two spaces in the former railway workshops of Carriageworks. In a large, cavernous room, O’Callaghan presents a new performance installation and sound work, titled ‘First Sound, Last Sound’. The installation features two large-scale fully functioning tuning forks that stand at three metres high and are positioned atop a raised stage. You can see this work activated by live performers every Saturday. To understand how the inanimate relates to the animate, O’Callaghan traces cultural practices centred around sites on earth that are said to have remained similar to when life first emerged. Looking at the significance of these sites through time, as places to gather and enact ritual, the artist contemplates the generative experience of these practices. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Time Out Sydney (@timeoutsydney) All is Life is presented free to the public from June 23 to August 21. Want more? Check out the best exhibitions in Sydney this

  • Art
  • Darlinghurst

If you’re not familiar with the work of the great Australian artist Colin Lanceley, now is your chance. The National Art School in Darlinghurst is proudly presenting Earthly Delights, an exploration through the artist’s signature technicolour assemblages and the intense sensory experiences of human life, culture and nature that underpin his work, affirming his vital significance and contribution to Australian contemporary art. This major show, curated by Sioux Garside in collaboration with the Lanceley estate, tracks the evolution of the artist’s work in three main stages: the collaborative collages of the Annandale Imitation Realists, formed in 1960 with two fellow NAS students and described by Robert Hughes as Australia’s “first totally urban art-guerilla group”; his assembled sculptures from the mid-1960s while living in London; and the vibrant, sculptural paintings he became known for in the five decades from 1970 until his death in January 2015, aged 77. Lanceley had a strong association with NAS, studying there in the 1950s, before returning as an educator in ’81 and teaching at the school for several decades and helping to establish NAS as an independent, studio-based tertiary art school in ’96. Earthly Delights follows Lanceley’s never-ending quest to express what he described as the essence of being alive at a particular moment in time, and to escape the traditional strictures of painting. Colin Lanceley: Earthly Delights is free to visit from June 24 to August 13, 2

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  • Art
  • Sydney

Daniel Boyd is considered one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, so it’s about time that the first major solo exhibition of his work was held in an Australian state art museum. Presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Treasure Island features more than 80 works from across Boyd’s two-decade career, tracing the artist's deep thinking around ideas of legacy and inheritance and his continued engagement with the histories of Australia. With Aboriginal and ni-Vanuatu heritage, Boyd reveals the richness and diversity of contemporary Indigenous art practices in his multidimensional works, which incorporate dot motifs, light projections, found objects and painting.  The exhibition features new work and commissioned spatial interventions. Highlights include his iconic early work ‘Treasure Island 2005’; ‘Untitled (ZVDG) 2014’ from his famed History is made at night (Kochi) series; and the intimate ‘Untitled (BAT) 2020’, one of the artist’s first large-scale works drawing from his own personal archive of lived experiences and memories. Daniel Boyd: Treasure Island is free to visit at the Art Gallery of NSW until January 2023.  Want more? Check out the best exhibitions in Sydney this month. 

  • Art
  • Design
  • Ultimo

The ubiquitous gum tree gets the artistic celebration it truly deserves with a new exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Drawing on over 400 objects from the museum's vast collection, Eucalyptusdom explores our changing relationship to the local hardwood, and artists’ many creative uses of the material. The exhibition is free to visit with general museum entry.  Running until August 2022, the exhibition takes its title from a 1930s text by Edward F Swain, one of Australia’s earliest conservationists. The show highlights the relationship between eucalypts and First Nations Australians, the trees’ important role in the Federation arts and crafts movement, plus the Powerhouse Museum’s unique and longstanding relationship with the eucalypt. Rarely seen items you’ll be able to have a gander at include over 100 timber specimens dating from the 1800s, botanical illustrations and early glass-plate photographs. It also showcases 17 new commissions, including from Trawlwoolway multidisciplinary artist Julie Gough. She documents eucalypt trees situated in the vicinity of sites of conflict and violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal people and colonists from the late 1700s to early 1800s. There’s also a work by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, working with Wiradjuri Elder Dr Uncle Stan Grant Sr AM, that considers the connection to the guardian ancestor Dharramalin, central to men’s initiation ceremonies. Nicholas Mangan’s new work analyses the complex history of objects in the Pow

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