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Ten Must-See Art Exhibitions and Installations to Check Out Around Brisbane Before Winter Ends

Fill the rest of winter with woolly labyrinths, Disney delights, a giant kaleidoscope you can wander through and all the Lego.
By Sarah Ward
July 18, 2022
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By Sarah Ward
July 18, 2022
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TEN MUST-SEE ART EXHIBITIONS AND INSTALLATIONS TO CHECK OUT AROUND BRISBANE BEFORE WINTER ENDS

Fill the rest of winter with woolly labyrinths, Disney delights, a giant kaleidoscope you can wander through and all the Lego.

There are two tried-and-tested ways to respond to winter in Brisbane: ignore it, because the warmer weather is never all that far away; or make the most of it by bouncing between getting cosy indoors and rugging up outdoors. This year, after a supremely chilly start to the frosty season, the first option definitely isn't recommended.

Looking for something to do while you're heading inside or donning all your layers outside? Get an art fix. This winter, Brisbane is a haven for blockbuster exhibitions and installations that'll have your eyes marvelling while you either escape or embrace the season — here are ten must-sees to visit.

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    Since 1955, the World Press Photo Foundation — a global platform connecting professionals and audiences through raw visual journalism and storytelling — has organised a contest to expose their work to an international audience. The competition has grown into the world’s most prestigious photography competition and global travelling exhibition, with the 65th edition of the World Press Photo Exhibition on show at Brisbane Powerhouse until Sunday, July 24.

    The winners from this year’s contest were chosen by an independent jury that reviewed 64,823 photographs by 4066 photographers from 130 countries — and while the exhibition only showcases a selection, get ready to peer at the best of the best. Taking top honours for 2022: Amber Bracken’s image for The New York Times, featuring red dresses hanging on crosses along the roadside to mark the children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. It’s a hauntingly striking photo, and it’s on display alongside other finalists, plus eye-catching images in categories that span contemporary issues, the environment, general news, nature, portraits and sports.

    Image: 2022 Photo Contest, World Press Photo of the Year. Title: Kamloops Residential School. © Amber Bracken for The New York Times.

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  • 9

    Always wanted to get the A-to-Z lowdown about the world’s favourite plastic bricks? Then add a visit to Bricktionary: The Interactive Lego Brick Exhibition to your calendar. On display at HOTA, Home of the Arts until Sunday, August 7, this brick-fuelled event gives southeast Queensland its latest Lego-themed exhibition, and takes advantage of the Lego expertise of Ryan ‘The Brickman’ McNaught.

    Clearly, there’s no such thing as too much Lego. You’ll certainly find a heap of it at Bricktionary, including over 150 impressive Lego models and six interactive building zones — so you can stare at Lego and make your own creations. More than one million bricks have been used, which is spread out over 1000 square metres at the Gold Coast venue. The ticketed event is a family-friendly affair, obviously, so expect to have young Lego lovers for company.

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  • 8

    At Brisbane City Council’s Outdoor Gallery, which fills 12 locations around the CBD with eye-catching work — in spots as varied as Howard Smith Wharves and Fish Lane — First Nations art is in the spotlight until Sunday, August 7. OUTstanding brings together pieces by emerging and early career creatives, and also turns this showcase of their work into a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heroes.

    That includes in communities, families and history, and heroing the land itself. Twelve artists have works on display, such as Jody Rallah, Kyra Mancktelow, Elisa Jane Carmichael, Chris Bassi, Keemon Williams and Mia Boe. If you’ve seen Dylan Mooney’s superhero-focused efforts at Brisbane City Hall over the past year, you can spot another of his pieces as part of OUTstanding as well.

    Image: Dylan Mooney, Empowered.

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  • 7

    Thanks to Keith Courtney, Brisbanites have already been able to walk through a huge house of mirrors in the past few years. And, with his help, moseying through an eerie and endless labyrinth of doors became a reality, too. The Melbourne installation artist isn’t done setting up massive mazes just yet, however — and his latest is designed to resemble a huge, human-sized kaleidoscope.

    Called Kaleidoscope, fittingly, this installation isn’t small. It’s a 700-square-metre expanse of glass, steel, mirrors and moving prisms that features a labyrinth of corridors decked out in a revolving showcase of lights and colours. Originally debuting in Melbourne for the city’s Rising Festival, it’ll start shimmering and luring Brisbanites on Brisbane Powerhouse’s Performance Lawn for two months between Friday, August 12–Monday, October 3 — and it has been crafted to be immersive as possible, and to disorient your senses while you’re strolling through, including both motion and gravity.

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  • 6

    A labyrinth of red and black wool has completely transformed Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art — and it’s wonderful. Yes, GOMA loves an immersive installation. It loves this one in particular, with Chiharu Shiota: The Soul Trembles originally announced as part of the gallery’s 2020 lineup; however, we all know how that year turned out. So, it’s now on display until October 3 instead as an Australian exclusive.

    The eye-catching exhibition showcases the Berlin-based Japanese artist and her work over the past quarter-century, coming to Brisbane after premiering in Tokyo back in 2019. Shiota’s string-heavy installations garner more than a little attention; fashioned from millions of strands, they resemble weaved, maze-like webs and take up entire rooms. The Soul Trembles is the largest-ever solo exhibition by the artist — and art lovers can wander through an array of sprawling installations, sculptures and video footage of Shiota’s performances, as well as photographs and drawings.

    Image: installation view: Chiharu Shiota: The Soul Trembles, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2022 © Chiharu Shiota. Photography: Chloë Callistemon, QAGOMA.

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  • 5

    June 2022 marked 30 years since the High Court of Australia’s groundbreaking Mabo decision, which confirmed native title and traditional ownership by Indigenous Australians. That’s a milestone well worth commemorating, so the State Library of Queensland is spending a few months doing just that — and celebrating Eddie Koiki Mabo, the man behind it, in the process.

    Running until Saturday, October 8, Legacy: Reflections on Mabo features work by 24 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, all in the spirit of reconciliation. As co-curated by Mabo’s daughter Gail Mabo with Dr Jonathan McBurnie and Kellie Williams, the showcase highlights both established and emerging creatives, with a particular focus on North Queensland talents. The lineup of artists with pieces on display is impressive — starting with 2022 Archibald Prize-winner Blak Douglas plus Adam Geczy, and also including Elisa Jane Carmichael and Sonja Carmichael, Toby Cedar, Dian Darmansjah, Katina Davidson, Hayley Megan French, Marion Gaemers and Patricia Hoffie, among others.

    Image: Lewis James Media, 2022.

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  • 4

    Whatever happens to be gracing its walls, the Museum of Brisbane is always filled with dazzling displays. Until Sunday, November 6, the Brisbane City Hall venue is positively sparkling, however, thanks to the work of Margot McKinney — and given that the Brisbanite is a world-renowned jeweller, the items on show will gleam brighter than the museum’s normal wares.

    World of Wonder: Margot McKinney focuses on McKinney’s work and history, and also the five generations of luxury jewels that have become synonymous with the McKinney family name. Expect to peer at opals, pearls, and rare gems such as tanzanite, lilac amethyst and pink tourmalines, all to get a picture of how McKinney has cemented her place among the jewellery greats — not only through her own brand and flagship store here in Brissie, but also via being stocked in the US in Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

    Image: Claudia Baxter.

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  • 3

    The Mouse House has brought some of its magic Brisbane’s way, with Disney: The Magic of Animation making a date with Queensland Museum until Sunday, January 22, 2023. Whether you’ve always been a fan of Mickey Mouse, can remember how it felt when you first watched Bambi, are able to sing all of Genie’s lyrics in Aladdin or fell head over heels for Moana more recently, you’ll find plenty on its walls worth looking at. And in its doors, too — because walking beneath mouse ear-shaped openings to move from one area to the next is all part of the experience.

    Disney: The Magic of Animation explores everything from 1928’s Steamboat Willie — the first talkie to feature Mickey Mouse — through to last year’s Raya and the Last Dragon. Obviously, a wealth of other titles get the nod between those two bookending flicks. Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book and The Lion King also feature, as do Mulan, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. The big drawcard: art from the Mouse House’s hefty back catalogue of titles, and heaps of it. More than 500 original artworks feature, spanning paintings, sketches, drawings and concept art. The entire lineup has been specially selected by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, and lets you get a glimpse at just how the movie magic comes to life, how some of Disney’s famous stories were developed, and which animation techniques brought them to the big screen.

    Image: Phoebe Powell. 

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  • 2

    Sometimes, we all need to get a little lost. We need to leave our comfort zones and go wandering through an otherworldly realm. We need to explore light-filled mazes, bound through inflatable spaces and check out an electronic hall of mirrors, too, and just completely forget about our day-to-day troubles while we’re moseying around a multi-sensory installation.

    If all of that sounds like your idea of heaven at the moment, it’s now a reality in Brisbane thanks to Imaginaria — an immersive playground for kidults and children alike that has set up shop underneath the Goodwill Bridge, next to Queensland Maritime Museum at South Bank until Sunday, January 29, 2023. The installation is made up of different structures each filled with lights, sounds and smells. First, you take your shoes off — and then you wander through a space filled with artificial intelligence projections, sensor-triggered LED waves, giant silk parachute canopies and more.

    Image: William Hamilton-Coates.

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  • 1

    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 new 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. Gracing the walls works by: 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, Lloyd Rees and more.

    Image: Josh Woning. Paul Davies, Centenary Pool Brisbane, Yellow/Grey 2008, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Christopher Hagen. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2021, Museum of Brisbane Collection.

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Top image: Kaleidoscope.

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