The best art exhibitions in Sydney this month

Cash strapped? Time poor? Take a tour of beauty with one (or more, go on) of these must-see art exhibitions
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There are big exhibitions running through August. At the MCA, Chinese artist Sun Xun and Aboriginal bark painter John Mawurndjul are both having big solo exhibitions, while the Art Gallery of NSW is showing the work of a little-known Australian artist, John Russell, who's counted as one of the French impressionists and was Van Gogh's buddy. The Archibald Prize reaches its final weeks at the AGNSW and Daniel Buren's oversized children's woodblocks are showing for just a few more days at Carriageworks.

Looking to get out of the gallery? See the best public art in Sydney. And if you're after something a touch more dramatic, here's our hit-list of the best theatre in Sydney this month.

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Art, Galleries

John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new

icon-location-pin The Rocks
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Bark painting is among the most recognisable Aboriginal art, but you mightn’t know that it was only popularised in the 1930s. One of the greatest exponents of bark painting – and one of the greatest exponents of Aboriginal art in general – is John Mawurndjul, who rose to international fame in the late 1980s and ‘90s.

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John Russell: Australia's French Impressionist 2018 Art Gallery of NSW supplied
John Russell 'Mrs Russell among the flowers in the garden of Goulphar, Belle-Île' 1907
Art, Galleries

John Russell: Australia's French impressionist

icon-location-pin Sydney
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Australian artist John Russell was a close friend of Van Gogh and Rodin, dined with Monet and was credited by Matisse for teaching him the basics of colour theory. Yet despite his talent and illustrious connections, few Australians have heard of him, let alone seen any of his work. 

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3
Art, Galleries

Sun Xun

icon-location-pin The Rocks
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Plenty of Sydney art lovers would've discovered the work of Sun Xun this year at White Rabbit's latest exhibition. It featured a hell of a lot of his paintings and drawings splashed across the gallery's walls, but for those wanting to get even better acquainted with the artist's output, the Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting his first solo Australian exhibition.

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CROP Archibald Prize 2017 winner ‘Agatha Gothe-Snape’ by Mitch Cairns image courtesy AGNSW
Art, Galleries

The Archibald Prize

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The Archibald Prize is the exhibition that stops a nation – well, a city anyway. Everyone has an opinion about who and what is most deserving of the $100,000 top gong – and the annual exhibition of fortyish finalists offers plenty to argue over, featuring faces familiar and not, by big name, mid-career and emerging painters.

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Spacemakers and roomshakers 2018 Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery of NSW © Ernesto Neto. Photo: AGNSW
Art, Galleries

Spacemakers and roomshakers: installations from the collection

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If you’ve ever walked the halls of the Art Gallery of NSW and smelt the scents of cumin, turmeric, paprika and cloves wafting towards you, you’ll be familiar with Ernesto Neto’s huge stalactite-like art installation Just like drops in time, nothing. Neto’s creation, alongside those by seven other contemporary installation artists, will be on show as part of the gallery’s new exhibition.

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Laka Casula Powerhouse 2018
Photograph: Supplied
Art, Film and video

Laka

icon-location-pin Casula
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At the centre of Laka, an artistic collaboration between S. Shakthidharan and Rosalee Pearson, is a feature-length film telling the story of Lily, a Yolngu woman from the Northern Territory, and her husband Siddhartha, a Sri Lankan Australian. 

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Nicole Monks and Amala Groom, FAIRER, 2018, image courtesy of the artists
Photograph: Nicole Monks and Amala Groom
Art, Installation

Green on Red

icon-location-pin Redfern
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In celebration of NAIDOC Week and coinciding with the theme ‘Because of her, we can!’, the Bearded Tit is handing over their space to three First Nations women who use their art to decolonise mind and body, and to challenge notions of privilege, culture and personal history.

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Photograph's from Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018
Art, Galleries

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

icon-location-pin Darling Harbour
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The Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards and exhibition showcase 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 incredible, revealing shot. 

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9
Artbank NOBA
Photograph: Peter Rosetzky
Art, Galleries

From Where We Stand

icon-location-pin Waterloo
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This exhibition contrasts some of the Artbank collection's classical landscape paintings against new works created by six Australian contemporary artists. Each artist's practice is varied, creating a collection of responses that explore their personal perspective, its relationship to experience, and how it in turn it is imbued in their work. From Where We Stand explores how artists meditate over the world and then portray it, examining the inseparable relationship between perspective, experience and physicality. Curated by Artbank director Tony Stephens, the exhibition showcases works from Yvette Coppersmith (this year's Archibald Prize winner), Ricky Emmerton, Anna McMahon, Sean Meilak, Rusty Peters and Lisa Sammut.

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Frank Hurley Manly Art Gallery and Museum 2018
Art, Photography

Frank Hurley: Photographer & Gardener

icon-location-pin Manly
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Frank Hurley lived an extraordinary life in just about every way imaginable. Born in Sydney, he became the official photographer for multiple expeditions to Antarctica, led by Douglas Mawson and Ernest Shackleton, including one in which the party became stranded for two full years, from 1914 to 1916. 

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11
Art, Galleries

Between Suns

icon-location-pin Darlinghurst
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Cement Fondu is one of Sydney's newest galleries, having only opened in March this year. Its next exhibition looks at the relationship between personal narratives and migrant communities and features video and installation works from five artists. 

12
Art, Sculpture and installations

Urban Decay: Joshua Smith

icon-location-pin Darlinghurst
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Some artists might try to look past the rust, grime and dilapidation of the urban environments they're capturing. Not Joshua Smith. In his first solo exhibition, he takes cities at their most honest – falling apart, covered in unfashionable graffiti – and creates aesthetically intriguing miniature models of buildings and shopfronts, complete with overflowing dumpsters and colourful signage. 

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13
Common Good Powerhouse 2018
PaperBricks by Studio Woojai
Art, Design

Common Good

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All good design should be functional, but the work in this show extends even beyond that, with design responding to the world’s most pressing social, ethical and environmental challenges. This doesn’t just mean that the designs on show are made from sustainable materials, but many offer up new solutions in and of themselves. 

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MCA Collection Today Tomorrow Yesterday 2016 Hossein Valamanesh 2011 Passing Time image courtesy MCA
Art, Galleries

MCA Collection: Today Tomorrow Yesterday

icon-location-pin The Rocks
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The MCA's collection hang is where you go to get an overview of Australian contemporary art – and it's less daunting than it sounds. The last time they curated the hang was in 2012 (MCA Collection: Volume One), for the launch of the re-designed building, so there are a whola lotta new eye-candies to wrap your brain around. 

Step outside the gallery

Jenny Munro
Photograph: Ken Leanfore
Art, Public art

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. 

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