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Eight Captivating Art Exhibitions to Explore in Brisbane This December

Cover off everything from Japanese icons to artistic bootlegs to Queensland's neon past.
By Sarah Ward
December 06, 2017

Eight Captivating Art Exhibitions to Explore in Brisbane This December

Cover off everything from Japanese icons to artistic bootlegs to Queensland's neon past.
By Sarah Ward
December 06, 2017


Cover off everything from Japanese icons to artistic bootlegs to Queensland's neon past.

When December rolls around, everything in Brisbane seems a little brighter. The summer sun is shining, the city is awash with festive cheer and everyone is a more relaxed with the holidays just over the horizon. Step into one of the galleries around town, and that definitely proves the case. In short: it's not just the most wonderful time of year, but the most wonderful time of year for art lovers as well.

Given that the Gallery of Modern Art is hosting Yayoi Kusama's dots and pumpkins, as well as Gerhard Richter's paintings and photographs, that's hardly surprising. And, they have company, with the Museum of Brisbane dancing its way into its new Li Cunxin showcase, and the Queensland Art Gallery letting Picasso grace its walls, and The State Library of Queensland staying neon. There's also emerging artists, creative self portraits, and a heap of bootlegs and replicas. Sounds good, right? Read on for all the details.

  • 8
    The Churchie National Emerging Art Prize

    For the past two years, wandering through QUT Art Museum’s last exhibition in its annual calendar has proven the artistic equivalent of peering into a crystal ball. On the George Street gallery’s walls, you can see the future — of the art world. Given that The Churchie National Emerging Art Prize is all about rewarding up-and-coming talent, that’s hardly surprising. Today’s participants are tomorrow’s stars, whether or not they emerge victorious.

    Indeed, Pierre Mukeba won the prize in 2017 with a piece titled James 2:10; however he’s in very good company, 29 of which are part of the exhibition. Until December 17, all 30 of their efforts will be on display from Tuesday to Sunday, as whittled down from more than 900 submissions.

    Image: Anna Horne, Red 2017, concrete, paint, steel. Courtesy the artist.

  • 7
    Picasso: The Vollard Suite

    Pablo Picasso jammed plenty of creativity into his 91-year life, including paintings, sculptures, prints, ceramics, stage design, plays, poetry and more. During the 1930s, he also etched and engraved a set of 100 pieces, in a series that was named after the art dealer who commissioned them: The Vollard Suite.

    Produced over an eight-year period, the collection takes inspiration from stories, tales and myths, as well as the human form, his mistress and politics at the time. In other words, it proves an artistic overview of his favoured themes and fascinations, while also offering an autobiography of sorts.

    Image: Pablo Picasso, Spain 1881 – France 1973, Minotaure aveugle guidé par une fillette dans la nuit. [Blind minotaur led by a little girl at night.] between 3-7 December and 31 December 1934, or 1 January 1935 from the Vollard Suite (97). Etching and scraper, printed in black ink. National Gallery of Australia. ©Succession Picasso. Licensed by Viscopy, 2017.

  • 6
    The University of Queensland National Self-Portrait Prize 2017

    Every two years, the University of Queensland invites a selection of artists to craft a new self-portrait — and every two years, one of them wins $50,000 for their troubles. In 2017, that honour went to Jenny Orchard, with her sculpture piece Self Portrait as a Multispecies Activist, but she’s not the only one getting introspective and creative.

    At the National Self-Portrait Prize 2017 exhibition, an array of artistic self-assessments are on display, spanning everything from ceramics to paintings to lighting to mirrors. Perusing their efforts, you’ll be fascinated by the way these creative folks see themselves — and you’ll likely be inspired to make your own attempt.

    Image: Julie Fragar, The Single Bed. 2017, oil on marine ply. 135.0 x 100.0 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Melbourne.

  • 5
    Mao's Last Dancer, The Exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxin

    Think you know Li Cunxin’s story? Think again. A book, film and his general creative vision can tell you plenty, of course — but peering behind the scenes in a world-first exhibition can build upon all of the above. Accordingly, that’s just what Mao’s Last Dancer, The Exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxin will be offering when it displays at the Museum of Brisbane until April 29.

    Never-before-seen interviews with Li’s family and ballet colleagues, Li’s own original objects and documents, and footage from throughout his career all features as part of the extensive showcase, which aims to blend his personal and performing lives. So too does a snapshot of what he’s been doing since he moved to Brisbane — aka the kind of things you won’t see when the Queensland Ballet takes to the stage. Image: Museum of Brisbane.

  • 4
    Goldin+Senneby: Standard Length of a Miracle (The Bootleg)

    Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook the practical, logistical side of international art exhibitions. Before all those paintings, sculptures and pieces can travel to our shores, they have to be packed and shipped — and it is hardly a quick or cheap endeavour. Artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby, aka Goldin+Senneby, have come up with an innovative solution to this predicament for their Brisbane showcase. Rather than bring their retrospective Standard Length of a Miracle to Australia, they’re presenting bootlegs and replicas of their original work.

    It’s an intriguing way of dealing with the problem, as well as one that fits in perfectly with their penchant for probing late capitalism. And, the end result comes complete with a few additions when it displays at the Institute of Modern Art until March 10, with the duo getting a little help from their friends.

    Image: Goldin+Senneby, “Headless. From the Public Record” with Angus Cameron (economic geographer), K.D. (fictional author), Kim Einarsson (curator/writer), Anna Heymowska (set designer), Marcus Lindeen (director), Eva Rexed (actor). Installation view: Index, Stockholm, 2009.

  • 3
    Gerhard Richter: The Life of Images

    When your artistic career spans more then five decades, that usually means one of two things: either you’ve become rather good at something in particular, or you’ve tried it all. In Gerhard Richter’s case, it’s fair to say that both and neither apply. That is, he’s exceptional at many different methods of putting paint on a canvas.

    In the first major exhibition of his work in Australia, Gerhard Richter: The Life of Images assembles more than 90 of his pieces from the past 50 years-plus to demonstrate the extent of the German artist’s talents. First, witness the trademark blur of his photo-like paintings, which result from using soft brushes to whip up versions of projected snaps. Then, view his abstract efforts layered over images of extermination camps. In between, gaze at portraits, landscapes, photographs, sketches, collages and cuttings.

    Image: Gerhard Richter; Germany b.1932. Ella (903-1) 2007. Oil on canvas. 40 x 31cm. Private Collection © Gerhard Richter 2017

  • 2
    The Salon Electric

    Once, Brisbane was alive the the fluorescent glow of flickering neon signs. Now, only 200 large scale pieces are left in the state. Celebrating the bright lights that once lit up darkened Brissie nights, The Salon Electric delves into neon as an art form, its relationship to nightlife, the design that goes with it and Queensland’s shimmering history until February 11.

    At the heart of the exhibition sits iconic pieces curated by neon maker Michael Blazek, plus photographs of others from the State Library of Queensland’s various collections. Jo-Jo’s restaurant, the Kookaburra Cafe, Mr Fourex — they’re all included. And if you’d like to play along when you’re not at South Bank, or even add your own neon pics, the exhibition also has an interactive Historypin site.

    Image: Neon sign from the collection of Michael Blazek. Courtesy of State Library of Queensland.

  • 1
    Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

    Go dotty about the world, and it’ll go dotty about you: that’s the Yayoi Kusama story. For seven decades, the Japanese artist has thrust polka dots to the centre of her paintings, collages and installations, making her a contemporary art favourite — and all of those years of circular creativity are now coming to Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art.

    Until February 11, GOMA plays host Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow, a major showcase of her lengthy and prolific career since the 1950s. Co-curated with the National Gallery Singapore, where the exhibition is currently on display until September, it boasts more than 70 of her pieces — featuring 24 works from her recent My Eternal Soul series, which has been ongoing since 2009, and currently comprises 500 canvases in total.

    Image: Yayoi Kusama in front of Life is the Heart of a Rainbow (2017) ©YAYOI KUSAMA, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro, London, David Zwirner, New York

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