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Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Australia

Art, Sculpture and installations
Bronze heads poke out from a pond amongst the rushes
Photograph: Supplied Dadang Christanto’s Heads from the North

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Open 24 hours and filled with unexpected delights, the Sculpture Garden at the NGA is unmissable

It’s standard right? You go to a world-class gallery and expect all the action to be inside. Not in this case.

Of course, the National Gallery of Australia’s interior is far from small potatoes. How could it be? The permanent collection spans more than 160,000 works of art, and holdings include Monet, Matisse, and Warhol in the European and American Art collections alone. 

But the smart money here is on those who also explore outside. The NGA’s sculptures capitalise on Canberra’s bushy environs, and are dotted across the lawns, gardens and parkland surrounding the gallery proper.

Warm up outside the main entrance with a visit to James Turrell’s Skyspace, Within without. Disguised underneath a grassy hill, the installation rewards those who venture down the sloping walkway with a series of small waterfalls, aquamarine waters and a quiet inner ‘stupa’, where a viewing chamber opens to the sky. While it’s tranquil in the daytime, you won’t want to miss the light show which floods the chamber with colour at dawn and dusk.

Next head to the lake side of the gallery and the official Sculpture Garden, where you must venture beyond the gravel path to see sculptures sitting amongst stands of eucalypts and poised in ponds, waiting to be found.

For most, the highlight is between 12.30 and 2pm daily, when Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog Sculpture creates a mist that wafts over artist Dadang Christanto’s Heads from the North. That work, featuring 66 square heads poking out of the water, provides a sobering memorial to those who lost their lives in an unsuccessful military coup in Indonesia in September 1965.

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Address: Parkes Place
Price: Free
Opening hours: Open 24 hours
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