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Immersive and Impressive Blockbuster Exhibitions to Look Forward to Around Australia in 2022

Plan trips to dive into all things Disney, peer at Yayoi Kusama's finest in two different cities, scope out Picasso's best and fall in love with Elvis paraphernalia.
By Concrete Playground
March 14, 2022
By Concrete Playground
March 14, 2022


Plan trips to dive into all things Disney, peer at Yayoi Kusama's finest in two different cities, scope out Picasso's best and fall in love with Elvis paraphernalia.

This year may have gotten off to a chaotic start, but that doesn't mean the country's (or your) cultural calendar is looking too bare. Some of 2022's most exciting and immersive art and museum exhibitions have either just opened their doors across the nation or are on their way before the year is out — which means you've got plenty to see in plenty of places.

That's especially exciting now that interstate borders are all fully open across the entire country, and cheap flights keep popping up with frequency, too. So, get out your diaries and plan trips to dive into all things Disney, peer at Yayoi Kusama's finest in two different cities, scope out Picasso's best and fall in love with Elvis paraphernalia — aka some of the art and museum exhibitions set to brighten up 2022.

Top image: Raemar, Blue, 1969, James Turrell. Tate: Presented by the Tate Americas Foundation, partial purchase and partial gift of Doris J. Lockhart 2013. © James Turrell. Photo: Tate.

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    23rd Biennale of Sydney

    Whenever the Biennale of Sydney hits town, it always makes a splash. Returning for its 23rd event in 2022, and running through till Monday, June 13, the Biennale’s current huge celebration of art isn’t any different. On the bill this year: portraits made out of grass, mirrored pavilions, a 600-square-metre bamboo structure and the sounds of 15,000 animals.

    The complete Biennale program features more than 330 artworks by 89 participants, plus 400 events, all linked to its central concept, ‘rivus’ — which means ‘stream’ in Latin. In terms of what you’ll be able to check out at venues such as The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Circular Quay, Information + Cultural Exchange, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, National Art School in partnership with Artspace, The Rocks and Walsh Bay Arts Precinct including Pier 2/3 across the city, it’s a varied bunch.

    A huge inclusion on the program comes from multidisciplinary studio Cave Urban, with the Sydney locals creating a work called Flow — which happens to be one of the largest bamboo structures ever produced in Australia. It’s the studio’s biggest-ever project, and will span 600 square metres through The Cutaway at Barangaroo. If all things shiny and mirrored appeal to you, Irish artist John Gerrard will be displaying a six-by-six metre LED wall on a polished mirrored pavilion, also at Barangaroo.

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    Forget Instagram — when it comes to peering at famous faces, portrait galleries have been serving up the goods since long before social media ever existed. Think of a well-known name not just in recent times, but going back decades, centuries and longer, and it’s likely that someone somewhere once painted their likeness.

    The Beatles, David Bowie, Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafza: they’ve all been given the portrait treatment, and the results — or one painting bearing their faces, at least — are now on display at Shakespeare to Winehouse: Icons from the National Portrait Gallery, London. Showing at Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery, this is the type of exhibition that arises when one portrait gallery teams up with another; think of it as the Inception of portrait showcases.

    There’s a heavy British skew, naturally, covering people who have shaped UK history, identity and culture over the past 500 years. Accordingly, other famous folks gracing the NPG’s walls include both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II, Kate Moss, Mick Jagger and Princess Diana, as well as Lord Nelson, Sir Isaac Newton and Ed Sheeran, Darcey Bussell.

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    Here’s one for the money: a huge Elvis Presley showcase, filled with around 300 artifacts owned by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, all on display in Australia. Between Saturday, March 19–Sunday, July 17, you’ll want to step into your blue suede shoes and take a trip to the Bendigo Art Gallery, which’ll fill its walls and halls with Elvis’ clothes, vehicles and other personal items.

    All those jumpsuits he was so famous for wearing? A selection will be on display. The only car from his movies that was actually his? That red convertible 1960 MG, from the film Blue Hawaii, is visiting Australia for the first time. The Bendigo Art Gallery will also showing some tender love to Elvis’ military uniforms, first job application and wedding tuxedo — plus Priscilla Presley’s wedding dress.

    Plenty of the items heading to regional Victoria rarely travel beyond Graceland — so yes, calling the exhibition is Elvis: Direct from Graceland is apt. It’ll serve up this hunk of burning Elvis love in an Australian exclusive, as curated in collaboration with the Graceland archives.

    Image: Elvis Presley in the 1968 NBC television special, Singer Presents… Elvis, later known as the ‘Comeback Special’. Photograph: Fathom Events/CinEvents. © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2021 ABG EPE IP LLC.

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    Plan a trip to South Australia, and spending time surrounded by grapes is probably on your agenda. This year, you can pair all those winery visits with plenty of pumpkins, too, because Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin-focused infinity room The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens will display at the Art Gallery of South Australia from Friday, April 1.

    Australia just keeps going dotty for Kusama. Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art’s hosted a kaleidoscopic exhibition dedicated to the Japanese artist back in 2017, her Obliteration Room has proven a hit in the Sunshine State several times and, going one better, Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia acquired The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens back in 2018. While the latter is a permanent addition to the NGA’s collection, it’s also going on the road on — which is why Adelaide is your next place to see oh-so-many dots.

    The piece was first exhibited in 2015. Comprised of a mirrored cube filled with yellow, dot-covered pumpkins, it’s a quintessential Kusama work. Whether you’re a devoted fan who considers visiting the artist’s own Tokyo museum a bucket-list moment, or someone who has simply placed stickers around one of her obliteration rooms, you would’ve noticed that dots and the concept of infinity are crucial to her art — “our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos,” she says.

    Image: Installation view, THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKINS DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS by Yayoi Kusama, 2017, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. © Yayoi Kusama, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai.

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    Forty-four works from Ancient Greece, dating back to the early bronze age, are coming to Australia. Those historic pieces will hit Melbourne Museum courtesy of Open Horizons: Ancient Greek Journeys and Connections, a new exhibition that’s set to open on Saturday, April 23. Co-created and presented with the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Australian-first showcase will feature pieces from the Greek organisation’s collection — which happens to be the richest range of artefacts from Greek antiquity worldwide — all of which will be making an appearance Down Under for the first time.

    In the case of two of the exhibition’s big highlights — the gold Theseus ring, which dates back to the 15th century BCE, as well as a 2500-year-old marble sphinx that depicts a female head with the body of a winged lion — they’ll make their debut outside of the National Archaeological Museum, too.

    Also heading our way: a collection of artefacts depicting Greek hero Heracles, as well as pieces that date through to the Roman period.

    Image: One of a pair of antefixes Clay Representations of Chimaera and Bellerophon mounting his winged horse, Pegasus. From Thasos. 550-500 BC. Credit National Archaeological Museum and Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. Photographer Magoulas.

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    If you’re Melbourne’s NGV International and you’ve spent the summer filling your walls and halls with fashion by Coco Chanel, how do you follow up come winter? By dedicating your next blockbuster exhibition to Pablo Picasso and the artists, poets and intellectuals he crossed paths with. The iconic Spanish painter, sculptor and printmaker’s pieces will sit alongside works by everyone from  Salvador Dalí and  Henri Matisse to Marie Laurencin and Gertrude Stein at The Picasso Century, which’ll take over the St Kilda Road gallery from Friday, June 10.

    A world-premiere showcase developed exclusively for the NGV by the Centre Pompidou and the Musée national Picasso-Paris, and displaying until Sunday, October 9, The Picasso Century won’t skimp on its namesake. From Picasso alone, more than 70 works will be on display. But it’ll also surround his pieces with over 100 others from more than 50 of his contemporaries, with the latter sourced from French national collections and the NGV Collection.

    That means that art lovers will be able to gaze at 170-plus works of art, and chart Picasso’s career via his paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics in the process — and also see how it developed through his engagement with his peers. And, when it comes to other talents showcased, the hefty list also covers Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Braque, Alberto Giacometti, Françoise Gilot, Valentine Hugo, Dora Maar, André Masson and Dorothea Tanning.

    Image: Pablo Picasso. Spanish 1881–1973. Reclining woman (Femme couchée). 19 June 1932, oil on canvas, 38.0 x 46.0 cm, 55.6 x 63.0 cm (framed). Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle. Donated by Louise and Michel Leiris, 1984. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022 Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM – CCI/Bertrand Prévost/Dist. RMN – GP.

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    One of the world’s most acclaimed galleries is coming to Australia, and it’s bringing more than 70 works that chronicle the past 200 years in art history with it. For a five-month season from mid-June, the UK’s Tate will take over Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image with a hefty exhibition that’ll span everything from painting, photography and sculpture through to drawing, kinetic art and installations — and, of course, the moving image.

    Given the time period covered by Light: Works from Tate’s Collection, the list of artists that’ll be on display is a varied one — as drawn from pieces in the Tate’s four separate sites in Britain. Art lovers will be able to see works by famed English romantic painter and watercolourist Joseph Mallord William Turner alongside the light- and space-focused efforts of American artist James Turrell, plus pieces by impressionist Claude Monet and Japanese favourite Yayoi Kusama.

    Running from Thursday, June 16–Sunday, November 13, the unifying theme is light, as the exhibition’s name makes plain — and if you’re wondering how this connects to ACMI’s remit as a museum for the moving image, light is obviously crucial to all recorded vision. While Light: Works from Tate’s Collection will step through art history, ACMI will further put its pieces into broader artistic context by presenting it alongside its permanent The Story of the Moving Image exhibition, which examines the origins and genesis of film and television.

    Top image: The Passing Winter, 2005, Yayoi Kusama. Tate: Purchased with funds provided by the Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2008. ©Yayoi Kusama. Tate.

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    The Mouse House is bringing some of its magic Brisbane’s way, with Disney: The Magic of Animation making a date with Queensland Museum from Friday, June 24. 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 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.

    Running through till Sunday, January 22, 2023, 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 will let 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.

    Top image: Phoebe Powell. 

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