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Visitors wander through exhibition of Aboriginal art
Photograph: Supplied/Chau Chak Wing Museum | Gululu dhuwala djalkiri

Where to see Aboriginal art in Sydney

Whether you're looking to expand your knowledge of this continent's rich Indigenous art history or its contemporary practice, these galleries and collections are where to start

By Time Out editors
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Whether you're visiting from overseas or a curious local looking to get beyond the basics (Dot paintings? Bark paintings? Just the tip of the iceberg), these are the places to see the best of Australia's diverse Indigenous art practice.

You can also see the work of a handful of Aboriginal artists on the streets of the city: check out our hit-list of the best public art in Sydney, including Kamilaroi artist Reko Rennie's 25-metre 'Remember me' sculpture standing tall outside Carriageworks in Eveleigh.

If you are planning to go exploring in Sydney, make sure you know how to go out safely

Public institutions and collections

Gululu dhuwala djalkiri exhibition
Photograph: Supplied/Chau Chak Wing Museum | Gululu dhuwala djalkiri

1. Chau Chak Wing Museum

Museums Camperdown

At many major museums and galleries, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections can feel sidelined into some box-ticking small gallery off the side. Not at the Chau Chak Wing Museum. Instead, Indigenous art and artefacts are interspersed throughout the collections as part of the Ambassadors series by Indigenous curator Matt Poll, which ensures that First Nations voices are prominent in the display of artefacts from their cultures. Until August 2021, the museum is showing more than 350 works from the Yolŋu people of eastern Arnhem Land in the stunning Gululu dhuwala djalkiri exhibition. Downstairs in the Penelope Gallery, Indigenous artist Daniel Boyd’s contemporary art installation Pediment/Impediment is showing until June 2021 – Boyd’s signature dot designs are projected over classical plaster casts to make a rousing commentary on colonisation.

Installation view of the Under the Stars exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, artworks © the artists.
Photograph: AGNSW/Felicity Jenkins

2. Art Gallery of NSW

Art Sydney

The AGNSW has a broad collection of works on paper, bark and canvas, as well as sculptures, fibre works, photomedia and multimedia – of which only a small proportion are on display at any given time. You can see them for free on lower level three in the Yiribana Gallery and see more work by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists throughout the Gallery.

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Exterior view of MCA building with Sydney Harbour Bridge in background.
Photograph: Museum of Contemporary Art/Anna Kucera

3. Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

Museums The Rocks

The MCA is home to the Ramingining Collection (bark paintings, carved-wood sculptures and functional objects from northeastern Arnhem Land), the Maningrida Collection (works primarily in fibre) and the ‘Arnott’s Bark’ collection of paintings on bark. Besides these permanent collections, the MCA contains many works by Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artists in the Level 2 gallery as part of the exhibition MCA Collection: Today Tomorrow Yesterday – including works by Vernon Ah Kee, Daniel Boyd and Gordon Bennett, among others.

National Gallery of Australia Canberra
Photograph: Supplied/NGA

4. National Gallery of Australia

Art Galleries

It's worth the trek to Canberra for the NGA's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection – the largest in the world, comprised of over 7500 works, and displayed in a purpose-built wing containing 13 galleries. There's a hugely diverse range of works on display and the Indigenous colection is growing each year.

Commercial galleries and artist co-ops

4. Aboriginal & Pacific Art Gallery

Art Waterloo

Under the direction of long-time Indigenous art specialist Gabriella Roy, this gallery has been in operation since 1996 and shows traditional and contemporary Aboriginal works from the Tiwi Islands and prominent community art centres in South Australia, Central and Northern Australia. 

5. APY Gallery

Art Galleries Darlinghurst

In March 2018, the APY Art Centre Collective opened this artist owned gallery in Darlinghurst, making it the first of its kind in Australia. The gallery has a focus on ensuring emerging artists are connected with new and broader audiences, and showcases work from the APY lands across a broad range of practices including painting, traditional punu (wood) carving, weaving, textiles, new media and digital photography.

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inside Kate Owen Gallery
Photograph: Supplied

6. Kate Owen Gallery

Art Rozelle

Whether you've got $200 or several hundred thousand dollars to drop on an artwork, you'll find something to your taste at this large commercial gallery – and staff ready to help you navigate your way through the world of Aboriginal art. But even if you're not in the market to buy, the Kate Owen Gallery is a great gallery to visit, with around 100 paintings on its many walls at any one time.

7. Boomalli Aboriginal Artists’ Co-op

Art Leichhardt

This not-for-profit cooperative was formed in 1987 by a group of local artists, including Michael Riley, Brenda L Croft, Tracey Moffatt and Bronwyn Bancroft. Reacting against the media’s fetish for ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ art, Boomalli spearheaded the urban Indigenous art movement in Australia. They continue to showcase work by founding members, emerging artists, and from Greater Sydney and regional NSW.

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8. Utopia Art Sydney

Art Alexandria

Christopher Hodge's gallery, established in 1989 when "contemporary Aboriginal art" was a relatively new concept for the art world, shows both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, but it's named after the Utopia community in the Northern Territory. The UAS stable includes major Utopia artists like Gloria Petyarre and the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

Go looking for art on the streets

Jenny Munro
Jenny Munro
Photograph: Ken Leanfore

The best public art in Sydney

Art Public art

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 – but Sydney has some seriously awe inspiring works to discover. 

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