8 Best reasons to discover the Art Culture of Australia.
From the other side of the world, Australian Art may not be the first thing which comes to mind when deciding to visit the land of OZ.
As someone from Melbourne, Victoria, there are less stretches of desert and warm beaches down here, and more coffee, laneways, art galleries and nightlife in Melbourne than most other places in Australia.
I have been very influenced by the artistic nature of Melbourne, the wider Australian art culture, and some of the famous artists in Australia. For this reason I pass on my 8 Best Reasons to Discover the Art Culture of Australia.
Take it as some alternative options to the obvious Australian outdoor centric activities. For when the sun isn’t shining as hoped, and you’re in search of something to challenge the mind and inner world of the curious traveller.
Pin for later! 🙂
8 NATIONAL GALLERIES
There are hundreds of art galleries in Australia, from small pop- ups to the largest, world renowned National Galleries. I have listed some of the major National Galleries below as a starting point when visiting the major cities.
The NGV or National Gallery of Victoria has expanded to two galleries, a close distance apart.
One located on St Kilda Road, the old building, and the newer modernised building as part of Federation Square, opposite Flinders street station.
Both have free entry and comprise a whole world of international art, displaying a collection of European, Asian, Oceanic and American art.
The original older building, the National Gallery of Victoria opened in St Kilda Road in 1968, and the total collection has doubled in size to more than 70,000 works of art.
The NGV in Federation Square also has a visual arts experience with diverse temporary exhibitions of talks, tours, programs for kids, films, and performance.
Art Gallery of NSW
Since 1971, The Art Gallery of NSW is has exhibited fine international art and Australian art in this spectacular art museum.
The Art Gallery of NSW acknowledge The Gadigal people, the traditional owners of the land where the Art Gallery of NSW is built.
Most exhibitions and events are free at the Art Gallery of NSW, as well as the initial admission to the gallery.
The collection also includes Australian contemporary art, by famous artists from Australia. Modern works are displayed in large, light areas, with spectacular views of Sydney Harbour.
The collection also includes everything from from 19th-century Australian works to European old masters, as well a specific galleries displaying the art pieces from Asia and Torres Strait Island and Indigenous Aboriginal Australian artists.
Canberra National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia is located on the shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin.
Holding world-class exhibitions, a stroll through the galleries and visitors will see among the collection, the famous ‘Blue Poles’ by Jackson Pollock and the Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan.
Also included in the vast collection, is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection, complete with over 7500 works!
Exhibited within the parliamentary precinct, famous artists from Australia and international arists work, past and present, are portrayed in the permanent collection in one of the most popular art galleries in Australia.
Art works include: one of Monet’s Waterlilies, a Hockney Diver, Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone, an Andy Warhol Elvis print and a triptych by Francis Bacon.
Other highlights include the incredible Aboriginal Memorial, a piece by 43 artists.
This ‘forest of souls’ piece depicts 200 hollow log coffins (one for every year of European settlement) and is part of the expansive and stunning collection of art by Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous
Aboriginal Australian artists.
7 MODERN ART GALLERIES
The list below in no way encompasses all the Australian contemporary art galleries of Australia. These are also a starting point for those searching for recommendations in the major cities.
The art collective listings website, Art Almanac as well as Time Out are both worth researching for current exhibitions and details.
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, Victoria.
Established in 1981, Heide- also known as The Heide Museum of Modern Art, is an Australian contemporary art museum in Bulleen, Melbourne, Victoria.
Heide is set on gorgeous grounds which are heritage listed and maintained, including picnic areas and sculptures.
There are 3 main exhibition buildings which hold modern art and historical art pieces relating to the Heide history.
From 1934 Heide was the home to John and Sunday Reed. The Reeds invited like-minded famous artists from Australia, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, John Perceval and Danila Vassilieff the Heide space.
The group of artists, writers and intellectuals who went on to contribute to Heide discussed creation and promoted modern art and literature.
Heide currently has informative exhibitions and information on the history of the artistic group, as well as a restaurant and lovely grounds to enjoy. Located at 14km from the Melbourne CBD, Heide is a highly recommended visit.
MONA, Hobart, Tasmania
MONA is an experience they say, and it sure is. From the ferry to wandering the MONA grounds, each time I have visited the gallery there is always new additions to challenge your thoughts and feelings. There is also usually humour involved which is welcome to some of the darker subjects.
Mona’s grounds and building showcases the highlights of David Walsh’s $110m private collection of art and antiquities, as well as hosting a full exhibition program, making this one of the most eclectic art galleries in Australia.
A visit should also definitely include their restaurant, bars, café, accommodation if required and the Moo Brew the brewery.
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane QLD
GOMA opened in 2006 2006. It is the Queensland Art Gallery’s second building, and is the largest gallery of modern and contemporary art in Australia, and also houses Australia’s first purpose built cinema.
Some of the past exhibitions include:
- Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection (24 March – 5 August 2018)[
- Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow (4 November 2017 – 11 February 2018)
- Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe (27 May – 3 September 2017)
- Cindy Sherman (28 May – 3 October 2016)
- David Lynch: Between Two Worlds (14 March – 8 June 2015)
- Matisse: Drawing Life (3 December 2011 – 4 March 2012)
- Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image & The World (28 August – 27 November 2011)
- Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams (11 June – 2 October 2011)
- 21st Century: Art in the First Decade (18 December 2010 – 26 April 2011)
- Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future (7 August – 14 November 2010)
- Picasso & his collection (9 June – 14 September 2008)
- Andy Warhol (8 December 2007 – 13 April 2008)
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney NSW
Based at The Rocks, by the water in Sydney Harbour, is the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
This art deco building shows a collection of Art from both Australia and over the World, including over 4000 pieces by australian artists, a collection built since 1989.
The collection covers a wide range of mediums, including painting, photography, sculpture, paper and video, as well as significant representation of art by Torres Strait Islanders and Indigenous Aboriginal
Australian Galleries, Melbourne, Victoria and Sydney NSW
Established in 1956, these two galleries are easy to access, and house a ton of exhibitions all year with a lovely ambience and atmosphere when wandering the galleries.
Their paintings are for sale, entry is free, and has regular exhibitions of contemporary Australia artists. Suitable for kids and mature adults.
6 INDIGENOUS ART AUSTRALIA
It’s important to do your research when deciding where to view Indigenous Art and where to buy Aboriginal art in Australia.
In the old days, fly-by-night gallerists would swoop into the most remote parts of Australia and return with a load of dot paintings, obtained by methods fair and very unfair.
Indigenous artists were paid with alcohol or food, or paid under a hundred dollars for artwork which would later sell for thousands of dollars.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lived on the land of Australia for tens of thousands of years. Their art and traditions are among the oldest and most important in human history.
The designs, patterns and stories were taught to Indigenous Australians by the Ancestors and are reinforced and replicated through ritual, dance, song, body painting, rock engravings and paintings, and on domestic and ritual objects. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is as alive today as it was thousands of years ago. As in the ancient past, the art is inseparable from everyday life.
There are several types of methods used by Indigenous Aboriginal Australian artists, including rock painting, dot painting, rock engravings, bark painting, carvings, sculptures, and weaving and string art.
A variety of colours are used, except for red, which symbolises blood and is only used in other types of painting. Aboriginal art in Australia is the oldest unbroken tradition of art in the world.
The oldest firmly known rock art painting in Australia, is drawing on a rock piece, which was located during the excavation of the Narwala Gabarnmang rock shelter in the Northern Territory.
Dated at 28,000 years, the artwork is one of the oldest known pieces of rock art known on Earth (with a confirmed date).
5 ART CULTURE IN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA
Melbourne has always been known as the main art central city in Australia, due to the colder weather conditions, hundreds of galleries, music, and bursting creative culture.
Aside from experiencing art in the usual art galleries in Australia, wandering the colourful laneways of Melbourne CBD and the inner suburbs, amongst the coffee shops, boutiques and buskers you’ll also find some of the most interesting commercial or independently owned art galleries.
Often free admission or a small price at these discoveries are partly what makes Melbourne the interesting city it is.
Similar to other ‘art focussed’ cities like Chicago, the Melbourne street art scene is one to pay attention to, with graffiti art, murals, and street art adding expression while you wander through the lively laneways.
Visit here to discover the street art of Chicago.
On top of this is the ever thriving music culture of Melbourne, proving that creativity is encouraged in this city.
4 ART CULTURE IN HOBART, TASMANIA
In recent years one of the biggest additions to Hobart has been MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), creating distinct change in the artistic landscape of Tasmania and Hobart.
MONA continues to push boundaries with their modern art collection and touring exhibitions.
In addition to this is the MONA styled ferry, complete with statue cows and astro turf, as well as the MONA FOMA and Dark MOFO festivals in January and June each year respectively.
The longest running galleries of Hobart have always been on the tourism roster for years, providing Hobart with the current culture of art, craft, and local produce.
3 ART FESTIVALS
The White Night festival in Melbourne was born from the all night arts festivals in cities all over the world, usually in summer.
White Night in Melbourne has been running since 2013, and has now expanded to Bendigo in 2020.
In 2019 the festival changed to White Night Reimagined, a pared-down but stretched-out version of the arts, music and light festival.
Every year there are also Fringe Festivals in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart and Perth, which include nights of uncensored, unjuried, performing arts including comedy, cabaret, and more. Cultural delights among the joyful chaos is the vibe of the Fringe.
2 AUSTRALIAN HISTORY
One of the best ways to learn the history of a nation and its experiences is through art. Political ideas, feelings, and individual perspectives are conveyed in the most challenging and sometimes relatable ways, a lot more than mere words.
Reading the synopsis’ beside paintings and searching online to learn artists histories in any country is an interesting and fascinating way to learn of a culture. This also assists in the understanding of behavior, and of bonding cultures.
1 ART AND STUDY
There are tons of art focussed courses in Australia, from university degrees, to TAFE run short courses and community based learning, covering, and not limited, to all forms, painting, sculpture, music, writing, film, life drawing, design and media.
The most focus and funding would be in the larger cities, where opportunities are available.
- Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
- National Association for the Visual Arts
- Live Performance Australia
Aside from the usual and common tourist attractions in Australia, taking some time to enjoy the creativity and history of the nation, whether it be the art galleries in Australia, lane ways or street performances, will enrich your experience and understanding while visiting Australia.
Please comment below, if you have any specific gallery suggestions to visit in Australia!