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How to Get More Art and Culture in Your Life this Summer (Even if You Work Full Time)

Stop putting art on a pedestal and get some culture at this summer's Sydney International Art Series exhibitions.
By Kara Jensen-Mackinnon
December 01, 2017
By Kara Jensen-Mackinnon
December 01, 2017

in partnership with

When you're old, will you look lovingly back on all those post-work evenings you spent downing ciders at your local or laying in bed alone watching Netflix? (If we're honest, probably yes). But why not mix things up a little and give your post work nightlife a hot injection of art and culture over the summer months. Being 'cultured' and visiting art galleries feels like one of those things your fancy adult friends do, but in reality, accessing art doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. Make the most of the long warm nights by soaking up all the Sydney art scene has to offer — and this summer that's heaps thanks to the Sydney International Art Series. Grab a chilled glass of prosecco, a cheese plate (or five) and learn a thing or two about some of the incredible artists that are being exhibited this summer, and start creating some cute memories for your future self.


Spend an evening moseying around the gallery and step back to a simpler, more golden time of Dutch history. This era was characterised by prosperity, science and a rising middle class who had stacks on stacks of cash money to spend on art and sumptuous delights, on account of #cleaneating not yet existing. Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age features works by 17th-century art's very own MVPs like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Judith Leyster. These artists were characterised by an obsession with capturing the world around them with exquisite accuracy, unleashing their talented little art fingers on subject matter ranging from brooding portraits and sublime seascapes to intimate scenes of domestic life and, of course, vivid renditions of the foods they dined on, because an artist's gotta eat. The guided tour is free with exhibition entry every Wednesday at 7.15pm for the duration of the exhibition.

Daily at 11.30am and 2pm, plus Wednesdays at 7.15pm, until February 14, 2018 at the Art Gallery of NSW. Check the website for date changes over Christmas.


Thank you, MCA, for sharing your breathtaking, rooftop views with the people. On Wednesday, December 6, the Museum of Contemporary Art is hosting a live music evening with full views of Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and the Bridge. It's the second event in their summer series, Sounds on the Terrace, which looks like it'll be the perfect addendum to a day checking out Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean.

Kicking off the night's sounds is Romisounds, an indie/folk musician who threw away his career to focus on his acoustic passions. After you'll be entertained by live jazz and hip hop fusion group, Five Coffees, who bring together an ensemble of vocals, horns and a rhythm section that will most probably get you up on your feet. Run in partnership with Young Henry's, the event will leave you well-hydrated thanks to the good beer flowing.

Wednesday, December 6 at the MCA.


Christmas in Europe is something truly special, and with the Art Gallery of NSW channelling the Dutch Golden Age with their current Rembrandt exhibition right now, there isn't a better excuse to visit Sinterklaas (that's Dutch Santa) when he pays a visit to the art gallery.

People in The Netherlands have celebrated the Feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6 for centuries, honouring the patron saint of children. It's a holiday where gifts are given and delicacies are had. Besides meeting the red robe-clad man himself (he'll only be in on December 6), you'll be able to try Dutch treats to a backdrop of angelic voices from the St James' King Street choir, who'll be singing traditional Dutch and Flemish compositions. On both December 6 and 13 there will also be wintery arts and crafts, a Christmas gift store and other festive food and craft delights.

Wednesday, December 6 and Wednesday, December 13 from 4.30pm at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Pipilotti Rist, Pixelwald Motherboard (Pixelforest Mutterplatte), 2016, installation view, MCA, 2017 © the artist, photo: Ken Leanfore.


They say laughter is the best medicine — we're not entirely sure who 'they' are, but there are certainly worse things you could be using to self-medicate. There are some lucky individuals in this world who spend their working week in stitches, whilst the rest of us chumps are just counting down the minutes until we can return to our beds. Why not take a break from the humdrum work week, and drop in at the MCA for a laughter session. Inspired by the Pipilotti Rist exhibition, Sip My Ocean, the workshops endeavour to bring the joy, colour and frivolity of the powerful works to life through the power of laughter. During the sessions, you'll take part in laughter exercises and learn about the benefits of a good chuckle. It's great for the abs, fends off those pesky facial wrinkles and does wonders for mental health — perhaps it really is the best medicine after all.

Saturday, December 16 at 2pm at the MCA.


If you've ever walked around a gallery eavesdropping on people discussing art, and felt that pang of intimidation, you'll know that talking about art is actually kind of hard. Rather than awkwardly lurking behind a tour group and trying to figure out what all the art is really about, why not attend a weekly art historian lecture at Art Gallery of NSW on the Dutch Masters? In the series of lectures, three art historians divulge what it was about these artists that has seen them stand the test of time, the characteristics of their style and what was in the water in the Netherlands at that time which saw the birth of so many painting powerhouses. Talks include The Art of Everyday: Introducing the Golden Age with Dr Georgina Cole, Vermeer the God of Small Things with Dr Josephine Touma and Rembrandt: Painter of the Human Spirit with Dr Stephanie Dickey. Single tickets are $35, or you can give your brain a little treat and get all three for $85.

Wednesdays at 6pm until December 13 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Adam Hedgecoe


Masters of improv, The Bear Pack, are heading to the Art Gallery of NSW, presumably to spin tales of Rembrandt and the Dutch master painters into their famous yarns. Comedians Steen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie use their powers of quick wit and on-the-spot decision-making to create a 'yarn'. Through suggestions of objects and places from viewers, the duo improvises characters and situations to create a cohesive, laugh-out-loud tale — they've captivated audiences by taking them on spontaneous adventures to the Pyramids, down fire escapes, around Aztec temples, into maternity wards and even to Subway. Here's hoping they land inside a Dutch masterpiece of sumptuous eats this time. And as usual, cellist Ange Lavoipierre will accompany the performance with deep, reverberating strings.

Wednesdays from January 10 to January 31 from 6.30pm at the Art Gallery of NSW.


What better way to celebrate the yes vote and impending legislative change than by sipping a cocktail bathed in rainbow light and looking over the picturesque Sydney Harbour at the MCA pop-up bar, Colour Fields. The temporary summer bar was inspired by the Sydney International Art Series exhibition at the MCA, Sip My Ocean by Pipilotti Rist, and curated by Scoundrel Projects. Every Sunday from 4pm, Future Classic DJs and their pals will be spinning tunes for you to sip your fruity cocktails to. Names include Andy Garvey, Ariane, Jack Shit, Vibe Positive DJs, Boogie Fingers & Bad Ezzy and Le Fruit. Entry is free but get in early because sipping summer drinks against one of the best backdrops Sydney has to offer makes for a pretty unbeatable evening and places are limited. And if getting loose on a Sunday isn't your vibe, the friendly folk at Future Classic have curated mixtapes that will be playing every other night of the week.

Every Sunday* from 4pm until February 18 at the MCA. (*Excluding Sunday, December 31, 2017.)

Colour Fields is open from 4pm till late, Wednesday through Friday and from noon till late on the weekend.


There is no doubt that if Rembrandt had the financial means, his time spent painting in the studio would have been accompanied by a full classical orchestra — he was only human after all. So, why not enjoy Rembrandt's works as he would have intended (probably) by visiting the Art Gallery of NSW's Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age exhibition to catch the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra during the Sydney Festival. Their performance will be dramatic, evocative, as well as light-hearted and will serve to enhance the incredible works in a truly unique way — bringing the uncanny still lifes, expansive landscapes and arresting portraits to life through the power of sound. And if your aim is for Rembrandt to fully assail all of your senses (and you're feeling particularly baller), Chiswick will be offering up a baroque banquet menu for two nights only with a menu designed by food lord Matt Moran.

Select dates throughout January 2018 from 6–7pm and 7.30–8.30pm at the Art Gallery of NSW. The baroque banquet will be held at Chiswick on Thursday, January 18 and Friday, January 19 from 6–10pm.


Spending a weekend cruising around an art gallery is high on the list of cultural things we wish we were doing with our lives, but once you've had your late breakfast (if you eat it at 1pm, does it still count as breakfast?), done a few loads of washing and cleaned the house, it's easy for those sunny weekend hours to slip away from you. This is why every Wednesday night the MCA keeps its arty lights on until 9pm. This summer, drop in after work for a glass of wine (or two) to enjoy sunset over the harbour on the rooftop terrace or grab a seat at the vibrant pop-up Colour Fields bar downstairs, before spending a cultural evening surrounded by incredible Pipilotti Rist works. If you're feeling particularly energetic, there are a number of workshops on offer, or if you're into sitting back and listening to smart people have it out, there are a number of talks featuring local creatives discussing the curious and controversial.

Every Wednesday until 9pm at the MCA.


If you're like us, finding time to hit the gallery is a struggle. Sure, having a busy day-to-day life probably means you're either very hardworking or very social, but you're also probably missing out on your recommended daily dose of culture. So, here's the remedy: the Art Gallery of New South Wales' Art After Hours nights, where you can visit the gallery until 10pm every Wednesday. This way you can fit some fine art into your busy schedule and continue being the social butterfly that you are (with a bit of added sophistication).

After hours nights see all sorts of experiences filling the halls of the gallery, with live performances, film screenings, pop-up bars, food, meet-the-artist events, workshops and guided tours that'll take you through the masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age until February 18. What's more, admission to the gallery is free (however, special exhibitions may charge an entry fee).

Every Wednesday until 10pm at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean will run until February 18, 2018 and Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age will run until February 18, 2018. See the full program of Sydney International Art Series events here.

Published on December 01, 2017 by Kara Jensen-Mackinnon
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