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Ten Blockbuster Art Exhibitions to See Across Australia This Summer

Plan interstate trips around beach breaks and visits to see Escher, Frida Kahlo and 200 original Star Wars objects in Australia's best galleries.
By Concrete Playground
November 19, 2018

Ten Blockbuster Art Exhibitions to See Across Australia This Summer

Plan interstate trips around beach breaks and visits to see Escher, Frida Kahlo and 200 original Star Wars objects in Australia's best galleries.
By Concrete Playground
November 19, 2018


Plan interstate trips around beach breaks and visits to see Escher, Frida Kahlo and 200 original Star Wars objects in Australia's best galleries.

Whether you're staying put or travelling interstate this summer, one thing's for sure: you won't be bored from a lack of art. A fine contingent of blockbuster exhibitions has hit the country for the warmer months, sweeping into temperature controlled galleries from Brisbane to Melbourne and everywhere in-between. You can step into an optical illusion at the NGV's new Escher exhibition, create your own Star Wars alter-ego at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum and remember gone-too-soon talent Heath Ledger in Caberra. And that's not even mentioning the classic works coming to our shores from the Hermitage and Tate Britain.

If you're someone who travels for art, you might want to book those domestic flights now. This is an impressive summer lineup — and, come March, most of them will be gone. Hop to it.

  • 10
    Escher x Nendo: Between Two Worlds

    The National Gallery of Victoria has revealed what will be on its agenda at the tail-end of this year, announcing its summer centrepiece as the world premiere of Between Two Worlds | Escher X Nendo. Much like the NGV’s 2016’s Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei show, the blockbuster exhibition will celebrate two very different creators: Dutch artist M.C. Escher and Japanese design studio Nendo. It will be the first to unite the two, bringing them together in an assembly of immersive art and design.

    More than 160 different prints and drawings created by Escher during his career that ran from 1916 to 1969 will be shown, the first time the Dutch artist has had a major exhibition in Australia. Optical illusion being what he is known best for, and the images on display will be drawn from the world’s largest collection of his work at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. In tandem, Nendo will create an environment to house the works, taking inspiration from Escher to manipulate geometry and space to warp perception. This’ll create a fully immersive experience in which to be boggled by Escher’s works.

  • 9
    Love & Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate

    This major exhibition will bring more than 40 of the Tate Britain’s beloved works to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, in an exhibition that’ll focus on the artistic movement that started in 1848.

    Iconic pieces such as John Everett Millais’ Ophelia and John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott will be making the journey as part of the showcase. Part ode to early Renaissance efforts, part protest against the prevailing creative traditions of the mid-19th century, pre-Raphaelite art was sparked by a group of rebellious artists eager to create something different to the art of the time — and their preferred style, featuring detailed, colourful compositions painted in thin layers with small brushes, certainly managed that. In addition to the pieces from the Tate, the exhibition will also feature an additional 40 works loaned from other British and Australian collections.

    Each will help highlight the themes of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, examine the different styles adopted by the various artists adhering to its principles, stress the importance of draughtsmanship and emphasise the movement’s fondness for collaboration.

  • 8
    'Star Wars' Identities: The Exhibition

    Star Wars fans, prepare to punch it on down to Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in November — and prepare to come face to face with 200 original objects from the popular sci-fi franchise at Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition.

    Coming to Australia for the first time, that includes costumes, props, models and artworks from the Lucasfilm archives, complete with a galaxy’s worth of favourites — think BB-8, R2-D2 and the Millennium Falcon just for starters. Get a glimpse of Yoda, you will, circa Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back. You’ll also feel the power-hungry menace radiate from Darth Vader’s suit from Star Wars: Episode VII — Return of the Jedi. Star Wars Identities is also an interactive exhibition, with creating your own unique character also part of the experience.

    If you’ve ever felt as though you should be hanging out in a cantina somewhere on a remote planet, here’s your chance to answer a heap of questions, work through a series of stations and find your inner Star Wars hero. You won’t need to use the force — rather, you’ll receive a smart technology bracelet and a headset to use while you’re in the exhibition (but if you want to say that you’re using the force or even want to give midi-chlorians some credit, no one will stop you).

  • 7
    Frida Kahlo: Her Photos

    You’re invited to take a rare glimpse into the life of Frida Kahlo, when photographs from the famed Mexican artist’s personal collection land at the Bendigo Art Gallery this December. Travelling exhibition Frida Kahlo, Her Photos will be on show in Victoria from December 8, 2018, until February 10, 2019, featuring a sprawling selection of 257 images curated by Mexican photographer and photography historian Pablo Ortiz Monasterio.

    The collection travels through Kahlo’s fascinating life, speaking to the artist’s lifelong passion for photography — an art form that regularly influenced her own work. The photos have been pulled from the archives of the Casa Azul (Blue House) — Kahlo’s former home, which has been made into a museum celebrating her life and art. You’ll spy gems that have only been on public show since 2007, capturing Kahlo’s family moments, her love for Mexico and its traditions, her passions, friends and enemies, the era’s political struggles, and even the artist’s lengthy hospital stay following an accident in 1925. The exhibition also features shots from Frida contemporaries including Fritz Henle, Man Ray, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, and Lola and Manuel Alvarez.

  • 6

    The Art Gallery of NSW has launched its next major exhibition: Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage. It sees 65 artworks from some of the early 20th century’s most revered artists — think Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and Gauguin, plus their celebrated Russian contemporaries Malevich and Kandinsky — drawn extensively from St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum.

    This landmark exhibition focuses on a revolutionary era in art history when these now legendary artists “freed themselves from tradition” and began to imagine art in previously untold vibrant, innovative and abstract ways. The collection acts a self-contained timeline tracking this defining period, with highlights including Monet’s Poppy Field (1890), Picasso’s Table in a Café (1912) and Kandinsky’s Landscape near Dünaberg (1913)

    The exhibition also delves into the lives of visionary Russian art collectors Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov — more than two-thirds of the exhibition has been drawn from their art collections. Realising the potential of the French modern masters, from the beginning of the 20th century, both Shchukin and Morozov acquired many of today’s most acclaimed artworks.

  • 5
    Patricia Piccinini and Joy Hester: Through Love…

    Patricia Piccinini’s otherworldly pieces have popped up all across Australia, and now it’s the TarraWarra Museum of Art‘s turn to host. The not-for-profit public art gallery has announced an almost four-month-long showcase of the artist’s efforts from November this year.

    Patricia Piccinini and Joy Hester: Through love… will display from November 24, 2018 to March 11, 2019. It’ll not only focus on the woman with an incredibly distinctive view on all things weird and wonderful — and on the thin line between humanity and animal kind that’s engrained in her creative portfolio — but on fellow Australian artist Joy Hester.

    If the latter’s name doesn’t sound familiar, she was a Melbourne artist who passed away in 1960, favoured brushwork and ink on paper, and is considered one of Piccinini’s key influences. This’ll be the first time anywhere in the world that a gallery has explored the connection between the pair, with more than 50 pieces on display. With the showcase broadly focused around the theme of love and intimacy as well, visitors will get to see the evolution of Aussie art through the output of the two inimitable figures, with Hester’s ink and paper works considered touchstones for Piccinini’s sculptures, photographs, videos and drawings.

    In both camps, attendees will be treated to something either rare or brand new. Much of Hester’s work is rarely seen, though her famous couple-focused series Love 1949 and Lovers 1955–56 will be on display. As for Piccinini, she’ll be represented by both new and existing large-scale pieces.

  • 4
    The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

    The Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery are bringing the Asia Pacific to Brisbane for the ninth time. Every three years since 1993, the city’s major art institutions celebrate the vast creativity brightening up the region as part of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. At the 2018 event — the fifth since GOMA opened, and one that’s free as usual — more than 80 individuals, collectives and group projects will grace the walls of the two galleries, representing over 30 countries.

    Understandably, the highlights are many. View a major site-specific work by leading Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie, see Singapore-based artists Donna Ong andRobert Zhao Renhui turn QAG’s Watermall into a new landscape filled with artificial plants, or dive into the water with separate video works by Martha Atienza and Monira Al Qadiri — with the latter not only making the gallery feel like an aquarium, but also being projected onto the William Jolly Bridge for five days.

    Don’t miss Gary Carsley’s Purple Reign, either — this jacaranda garden is blooming inside the gallery for five months. It’s designed for children, but great art can bring out the kid inside all of us. The interactive piece is inspired by R Godfrey Rivers’ 1903 painting Under the jacaranda, and projects gorgeous blossoms of purple onto the space’s walls.

  • 3
    Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures

    After a stint in Heath Ledger’s hometown, this stunning exhibition has made its way east to Canberra’s National Film and Sound Archive. Celebrating the Perth-born actor’s charisma, exemplary career and passionate creativity, Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures is a must-see for all Ledger fans.

    Put together by AGWA, the WA Museum and guest curator Allison Holland, the exhibition follows Ledger’s career from his teenage years up to his final role in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). You’ll get to see costumes — including the Joker suit from The Dark Knight and the shirts he wore as Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain — alongside research journals (on display for the first time) that grant an insight into how Ledger developed his roles.

    Also included in the show are photographic portraits by the likes of Karin Catt and Bruce Weber, Ledger’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar and BAFTA, and a chronological narrative of his career — including his own experimentation with image making and creative projects as a director. Promises to be a bittersweet reminder of just how talented Ledger was, and what even greater heights he would have gone on to achieve.

  • 2
    David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948–2018

    Sydney’s MCA is currently hosting an extensive retrospective of work form renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt. The exhibition dives deep into the life and work of one of recent history’s most legendary photographers, covering a career of more than 60 years.

    Goldblatt is best known for his portrayal of South Africa’s tumultuous history, especially surrounding apartheid. As the photographer’s first major retrospective in the southern hemisphere, the exhibition will feature Goldblatt’s most famous photo series, along with early vintage prints, never-before-seen footage from his personal collection and a new feature-length documentary.

    The Sydney-exclusive exhibition is the first major retrospective of Goldblatt’s work in the southern hemisphere. The exhibition was also the Goldblatt’s final project before his death earlier this year.

  • 1
    Museum of the Moon

    Prepare to stare at the moon in all of its glory — up close, without a telescope and without zooming into space. Measuring seven metres in diameter and featuring renderings of the celestial body’s surface based on NASA imagery, the Museum of the Moon is a detailed installation by UK-based artist Luke Jerram. The giant sculpture has been touring the world since 2016, displaying in New York, Hong Kong, Mumbai and plenty of spots around Europe.

    Between December 1, 2018 and April 28, 2019, it’ll add Melbourne to its orbit. Inspired by Jerram’s time living in Bristol and “noticing the huge tidal variation as he cycled over the Avon Cut each day” according to the Museum of the Moon’s website, the artwork recreates the moon at a scale of approximately 1:500,000, with each centimetre equating to five kilometres of the lunar surface. And if you’re wondering just how intricate the 120dpi imagery is, the high-resolution NASA photograph that it uses is 21 metres wide, and was taken by by a satellite carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.

    The spherical sculpture is lit from within, so it’ll add a glow when it comes to Scienceworks for five months. It also combines its imagery and light with a surround sound piece created by composer and sound designer Dan Jones, and just how each venue displays it is up to them. Basically, it’s never the exact same installation twice.


Top image: Hermitage at the Art Gallery of NSW. 

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