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Ten Sensational Exhibitions to See in and Around Brisbane This Summer

Spend your summer wandering through masterpieces, bouncing around a multi-sensory installation, and embracing the surreal and sublime.
By Sarah Ward
December 06, 2021
By Sarah Ward
December 06, 2021


Spend your summer wandering through masterpieces, bouncing around a multi-sensory installation, and embracing the surreal and sublime.

Sun, splashing around, sipping drinks right beside to your closest patch of water: all of these things scream summer in Brisbane. But thanks to our sweltering climate, escaping into the airconditioned comfort of an art gallery is also a quintessential warm-weather activity in this sultry town of ours — and this year's exhibition lineup is top-notch.

Whether you're keen to wander through a masterpiece, bounce around an immersive installation, or embrace something weird and wonderful, that's all on the bill this summer. So next time you're looking to break up your pool sessions with peering at art, add these ten showcases to your must-visit list.

  • 10

    Filling your summer with overseas travel mightn’t quite be on your agenda yet, but packing it with artworks from around the Asia Pacific can be at the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art is. As the two Brisbane galleries do every three years, they’ve turned their attention to the Asia-Pacific region — to take stock of Brissie’s place in this part of the globe, and to celebrate the exceptional work being created by the area’s talented artists.

    Displaying across the two South Bank sites until Monday, April 25, this Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art marks the tenth hosted by either QAG, GOMA or both — and has been its flagship series since first gracing Queensland Art Gallery’s walls almost three decades ago. To celebrate, APT10 is showcasing 69 artworks from more than 150 Asia-Pacific creatives, covering more than 30 countries.

    Top image: Vipoo Srivilasa Thailand/Australia b.1969. Shrine of Life / Benjapakee Shrine (detail) 2021. Mixed-media installation with five ceramic deities. Installed dimensions variable. Commissioned for APT10 / Purchased 2021 with funds from the Contemporary Patrons through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Photograph: Simon Strong ©Vipoo Srivilasa.

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  • 9

    One of the world’s most-visited multi-sensory experiences has arrived at Northshore Hamilton, with immersive exhibition Van Gogh Alive bringing Vincent van Gogh’s most famous works to Brisbane. When you see The Starry Night here, however, you’ll actually be walking through it. Love Sunflowers (the painting, as well as the plant)? An immersive Sunflower infinity room is also included.

    A family-friendly experience that’s on display until Sunday, January 23 , Van Gogh Alive creates the sensation of walking right into the Dutch artist’s paintings — and you definitely won’t feel like you’re just standing in an ordinary gallery. Attendees encounter van Gogh’s world-famous works in fine detail thanks to Grande Exhibitions’ state-of-the-art technology, which uses 40 high-definition projectors. A classical musical score accompanies the vibrant colours, too, as presented in cinema-quality surround sound.

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  • 8
    Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection On Tour

    Back in 2018, the weird and wonderful combined in Patricia Piccinini’s Curious Affection exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art. In the acclaimed artist’s mind, bulbous creatures float through the sky, automobiles may as well be animals, and the line between humans and other critters is razor thin. It all sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie (or several), but Piccinini explores the way that nature and technology, people and animals, and the unusual and the sublime all blend across a range of mediums.

    If you missed this striking showcase a couple of years back, the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery has great news — and a great reason for you to take a road trip west. From Friday, November 12–Sunday, February 27, it’s displaying Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection On Tour in conjunction with GOMA, complete with some of Piccinini’s best-known sculptures, photographs and videos.

    Images: Installation view, ‘Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection’ at GOMA (2018), shot by Natasha Harth.

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  • 7
    Thinking Into Being

    Whenever its doors are open — whenever patrons are walking through its halls, too — QUT Art Museum’s walls are filled creative pieces. That remains the case during Thinking Into Being, the Gardens Point venue’s summer-long exhibition; however, pondering not just the final product but the method behind it is a pivotal part of this art and design showcase.

    Highlighting the exceptional work created by former QUT students who’ve gone on to do huge things in creative fields — 3D artist and set designer Benjamin Donnelly has been working on upcoming Marvel sequel Thor: Love and Thunder, for instance — this exhibition is all about the thought process that brings objects, products and experiences to fruition. Each piece on display is designed to make you contemplate its design, and how design in general can bring about change.

    Images: Installation view of Thinking into Being: QUT Alumni Triennial, QUT Art Museum, Brisbane, 9 October 2021 to 27 February 2022. Photos by Louis Lim.

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  • 6
    Conflict in My Outlook — Don't Be Evil

    Not that long ago, if you were talking about clouds, you were only referring to the type that float above our heads. Now, we’re all uploading our lives to ‘the cloud’, because that’s the term used for online data storage. And, while it’s easy to save your photos and documents in accessible digital spots that you can connect to no matter which device you’re using — more than that, it’s common practice — this big shift has come with repercussions.

    Displaying at the UQ Art Museum until Saturday, January 22, Conflict in My Outlook — Don’t Be Evil takes part of its moniker from Google’s famous motto. If you’re wondering why, that’s because this exhibition ponders the labour, data, infrastructure, technology and all-round pervasiveness of our always-online world. A group of artists has ruminated over the topic, as well as the reality we’re all living right now, and then created pieces that overtly reference and/or endeavour to bring to life not just the internet, but all it holds and stands for.

    Top images: Kate Geck. rlx:tech – defrag🌸popup, 2021. Installation view, Don’t Be Evil, UQ Art Museum, 2021. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Louis Lim.

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  • 5

    Sometimes, we all need to get a little lost. We need to leave our comfort zones — and the homes we’ve been spending so much time in during the pandemic — 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, then make a beeline to Imaginaria. On display at South Bank until Sunday, January 30, 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 and giant silk parachute canopies. Also included: cosmic gardens, an anti-gravity sunset, an electronic hall of mirrors and a digital wishing well that whispers your greatest desires.

    Image: William Hamilton-Coates

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  • 4
    City in the Sun

    Brisbane’s subtropical vibe has scored its own exhibition, with Museum of Brisbane is giving everything that makes this sun-dappled town what it is a big, warm hug. Displaying between Saturday, June 19–Sunday, February 27, City in the Sun covers everything from frangipanis and jacarandas to pineapples, all via works from artists such as Kinly Grey, Christopher Bassi, Laura Patterson, Rachael Sarra, Sam Tupou, Sebastian Moody, Holly Anderson and Rachel Burke, Tracey Moffatt and more. Their pieces feature plenty of colour, but also toy with and interrogate Brissie’s identity.

    Across 30 artworks — complete with eight significant commissions — highlights include Moody’s large-scale light work Sunshine Psychology, Moffat’s First Jobs photographs of Brisbane in the 70s and Grey’s interactive piece, which draws upon attendees’ body heat. Or, get swinging in Burke’s backyard installation with its cubby house, flower beds and a tinsel sky.

    Image: Toby Scott.

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  • 3
    Art Mixtape: Yours for Summer

    Call them mixtapes, call them CD compilations, call them playlists — whatever term fits depending on the era, there’s an art to making a great collection of tunes. That’s the mindset that HOTA, Home of the Arts is bringing into its new — and free — summer exhibition. ‘Tis prime mixtape season, after all, even if you’re using installations, video works, sculptures and paintings instead of songs.

    Opening on Saturday, December 18, Art Mixtape: Yours for Summer brings together more than 80 works from the Gold Coast City Collection, as well as new pieces from Australian and New Zealand artists. The lineup reads like a who’s who of impressive talents, including Tracey Moffatt, Sam Jinks, Soda Jerk, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Shaun Gladwell and Vernon Ah Kee.

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  • 2

    2021 has been a great year for looking at exceptional and iconic art in Brisbane — so much so that an exhibition that recreates Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescos has now popped up West End’s West Village.

    Hitting Brisbane after sold-out stops in Chicago, London and San Francisco, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition is filled with life-sized versions of all the stunning art that has long made the Vatican cathedral a must-visit destination. The showcase’s 34 pieces have all been created using a printing technique that emulates the look and feel — and detail, colours and brushstrokes — of the original paintings, so it really is the next best thing to seeing the real thing on the other side of the globe.

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  • 1

    Brisbanites, it’s time to clock Big Ben with your own eyes, stand before the Arc de Triomphe and check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa — all without leaving town. At Queensland Museum’s Brickman Wonders of the World exhibition, more than 50 structures have been recreated using plastic bricks. No Lego isn’t just for kids. And, obviously, you’re never too old to take a peek at a four-metre-tall Lego space shuttle, see a 120-kilogram replica of the Titanic or check out a 4.65-metre-long map of Tokyo’s subway system.

    That’s all on offer until Sunday, January 30 — with more than 1.3 million bricks used to create everything from the Pyramids of Giza to the Great Wall of China.

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Top image: Imaginaria.


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