Ten Creative Events to Browse, Buy, Peer, Feast and Dance Your Way Through at Brisbane Art Design 2023

Art lovers and design devotees, May in Brisbane is your time to shine — here's what you need to see.
Sarah Ward
Published on May 15, 2023

Ten Creative Events to Browse, Buy, Peer, Feast and Dance Your Way Through at Brisbane Art Design 2023

Art lovers and design devotees, May in Brisbane is your time to shine — here's what you need to see.

When a festival dedicates its focus to art and design, it is limited only by its imagination. Exhibitions and installations, parties and food trucks, markets and tea celebrations, getting cosy on bean bags and staring at mini Queenslanders — they're all on Brisbane Art Design's program for 2023, with the fest celebrating Brisbane's creativity from Friday, May 12–Sunday, May 28.

With more than 150 events on its lineup, Brisbane Art Design is going big, broad, bright and busy for its latest run. Wherever you look throughout the River City in May, you'll likely find part of the festival's program livening up the place — including breweries, record stores, restaurants, gardens and the usual galleries.

Wondering what to see? Where to browse and buy? Which works you should be peering at? Where you can feast and dance as well? We've picked ten must-attend Brisbane Art Design festivities for this year.

Top image: Alessia E Art.

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    Maybe you really love Patrick Swayze. Perhaps you’ve always loved terracotta or ceramics. Or, the idea of pottering around a clay-based showcase and taking home standout pottery pieces could just be your idea of a great time. Whichever category you fall into, coast on over to the Clayschool shop and Clayschool: Current and Alumni, both of which are celebrating ten years of works made out of its chosen medium during Brisbane Art Design.

    Even if you’ve never tinkered yourself, you might be familiar with the Brisbane clay institution thanks to its seasonal shows and markets. With its latest excuse to get shopping from Wednesday, May 3–Sunday, May 28, you’ll be heading to West End’s Vacant Assembly to browse and buy from 10am–5pm Wednesday–Friday and 10am–4pm Saturday–Sunday. Then, across three days from Friday, May 26–Sunday, May 28, the Current and Alumni exhibition focuses on celebrating not only the best of the best, but also the full range of Clayschool’s output.

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  • 9

    Throughout autumn, Brisbane’s nights start getting longer, with winter hovering close on the horizon. Don’t think of it as a farewell to after-work sunshine, though, even if you’re all about as much daylight as you can soak in. Instead, for ten days in May, think of it as the best canvas there is for the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens’ returning after-dark art and light festival Botanica: Contemporary Art Outside.

    This luminous fest unfurls its fifth stint of dazzling sights from Friday, May 12–Sunday, May 21, once again turning the CBD’s  riverside patch of grass into a stunning outdoor art gallery — and yes, taking full advantage of the night hours. Running from 5–10pm daily, it’ll see the gardens will come alive with artworks, installations and projections, with pieces from local, national and international artists set to liven up the already-scenic inner-city spot.

    Image: Bec Taylor.

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  • 8

    When you’re spending the best part of month hopping around Brisbane checking out art and design events as far as the eye can see — when you’re making the most of Brisbane Art Design for 2023, that is — you’re bound to work up a hefty appetite. This fest unfurls 150-plus events, making it quite the busy time. Thankfully, BAD Food Truck Night at Craft’d Grounds precinct is one of them.

    Mark Friday, May 19 on your calendar and make an after-work date with this excuse to grab a bite and a drink, and also watch live art. In Albion’s converted builder’s yard, you can celebrate the end of the working week, too — and the festival, of course — while listening to tunes by Jeremy Beamish and scoping out Scribble Slam street artists. Sorella & Co, 2 Serial Grillers and Bubbo Dessert will be among the food trucks, with cuisine on offer from 5pm and live tunes from 6pm.

    Image: Lovelenscapes Photography.

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  • 7

    For lovers of art and design, May in Brisbane is a mighty fine time, with both Brisbane Street Art Festival and Brisbane Art Design taking over the River City for 2023. Wherever you head around town, it’s likely that one, the other or both will be brightening up the place — and on one night, on Saturday, May 20, they’re officially joining forces.

    With BSAF launching back on Saturday, May 6 and ending on Sunday, May 21, the Brisbane Street Art Festival Felons Party is a closing shindig. From 6pm–12am, the street art-loving fest and BAD will turn Felons Brewing Co‘s Barrel Hall into a hub for art and music, with entry free. Scribble Slam will be back, too, for another big art battle. This year, Vance and Jasmin Crisp are going head to head — and you can help choose who wins. Among the fun, you’ll be sipping the official BSAF 2023 beer while revelling in how creative this city of ours is. Now that’s worth saying cheers to again and again.

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  • 6

    Finders Keepers is a frequent visitor to Brisbane, usually unleashing its market spread upon the River City twice a year. But with Brisbane Art Design back for 2023, it’s making another trip to celebrate. It is all about showcasing art and design, after all, which is exactly what it’ll do at a one-day pop-up. As has been its custom for 15 years now, Finders Keepers will once again bring shoppers face-to-face with some of the country’s most quirky and creative designers — this time from 8am–3pm on Saturday, May 20 at Craft’d Grounds in Albion.

    The focus remains, as ever, on helping you discover and connect with the next wave of independent and emerging artisans. Expect to find more than 20 stalls slinging wares from talented local makers Entry is free and, when the inevitable shopping-induced hunger strikes, you’ll be in the right spot to grab a bite onsite — and a coffee — to help fuel your shopping.

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  • 5

    One of life’s simplest, purest pleasures gets a day to shine when May 21 rolls around each year — and in 2023, Brisbane Art Design is celebrating. The River City’s annual creative festival is pouring cuppas to mark International Tea Day, taking over Fortitude Valley’s Ring a Bell with both a one-day shindig and a weeklong exhibition. On the date itself — a Sunday, nicely — the Brunswick Street spot will host a special tea tasting, as well as a mini makers market, with both running from 9am–1pm. From 11–11.45am, you can also listen to an in-conversation chat about tea over brunch.

    Whether you can make it to this communi-tea focused day or not, art showcase To the Beauteaful You keeps the celebrations hot from Sunday, May 21–Saturday, May 27. Here, you’ll peer at pieces by up-and-coming photographer Lam Ha Tran, ceramic artist Georgia Richards, and visual artists Tanya Ashworth and Sariah Christensen. Yes, the theme is tea. The exhibition runs from 7am–2pm Monday–Friday, and from 8am–1pm on Saturday.

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  • 4

    Gather a group of people together, then ask them to describe Brisbane as seen their own eyes — and, no matter how many answers you get, it’ll be full of wildly varying takes. That’s what the Museum of Brisbane’s exhibition Making Place: 100 Views of Brisbane presents, but via pieces of art depicting the city, with works dating back as far as the 1820s. Obviously, Brissie has undergone a wealth of changes in the past two centuries — and if someone captured it on a canvas, it’s likely on display here. As the name makes plain, there are at least 100 different views of the city included in this showcase, all helping to ponder this town of ours as it was, is and might be moving forward.

    Running from 10am–5pm Tuesday–Sunday, Making Place: 100 Views of Brisbane features work by an impressive list of talent. Gracing the walls: Judy Watson, Margaret Olley, Vida Lahey, Jane Grealy and Margaret Cilento, as well as Richard Randall, Noel McKenna, William Bustard, Charles Lancaster, Robert Brownhall, Stephen Nothling and Lloyd Rees.

    Image: Josh Woning.

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  • 3

    When an art and design festival sweeps into Brisbane, as Brisbane Art Design is throughout May, checking out exhibitions and browsing for impressive wares comes with the territory. There’s more to this fest than just the basics, however, no matter how stunning its showcases are — and how much perusing and purchasing you’re keen to do.

    Fancy learning about ceramics, then tucking into a two-course banquet with paired wines? That’s also on the BAD agenda. For one night only, across two sittings on Thursday, May 25 — at 5.30pm and 7.45pm, Southside and Mas & Miek are teaming up on a $169-ticket Southside x Mas & Miek dinner that’ll showcase the former’s food and vino, plus the latter’s hand-crafted items, and also celebrate the link between tableware and the feasts adorning them.

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  • 2

    When is a record store more than just a record store? When it’s also a cafe and community space as well. And when is a stint of scouring Echo & Bounce‘s racks more than just a shopping trip? When the Woolloongabba spot welcomes everyone in for a day-long open house complete with DJs, live music, art and markets in Jacob Lane. This excuse to stack your vinyl collection made the move from Fortitude Valley’s Winn Lane to Brisbane’s inner east in 2022, to a two-storey perch in an old heritage building — and it wants you to drop by during Brisbane Art Design 2023.

    On Saturday, May 27, you’ll browse, listen, buy, eat, drink, hang out and engage from 7am–8pm. The fun starts over breakfast, including tunes both spun and performed live, plus installations to peer at. Then, from 12–5pm, the community market will span music, art, objects and wearables. Echo & Bounce’s open house will take over its carpark space, courtyard and living room, as well as the store’s loft if the weather turns wet.

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  • 1
    We Are Electric

    Energy: we’re either using it or talking about it. When we do the latter, we also do the former, of course. It describes our strength and vitality, and also covers how we power the world — and, unsurprisingly, it’s a hot topic regarding the planet’s future. At We Are Electric at the UQ Art Museum until Saturday, June 24, energy is firmly in the spotlight, too.

    This free exhibition explores the subject through art, pondering extraction, extinction and the world’s post-carbon futures. So, as all great showcases should, you’ll be inspired to think deeply while you’re peering at paintings, sculptures, installations, video works and other creative pieces — about how energy flows within us, how the planets vibrate and how humanity’s need for energy to fuel our existence is coming at a cost.

    Image: Michaela Gleave, Terrella, 2022. Installation view, We Are Electric, UQ Art Museum, 2023. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Josef Ruckli.

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