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Seven Immersive and Impressive Art Exhibitions to Visit Around Australia This Autumn

Plan trips to walk over giant Monet artworks, visit Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' and explore decaying rooms filled with street art.
By Concrete Playground
March 16, 2021
By Concrete Playground
March 16, 2021


Plan trips to walk over giant Monet artworks, visit Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' and explore decaying rooms filled with street art.

The silly season may be over, but that doesn't mean the country's (or your) cultural calendar is looking too bare. Some of the year's most exciting and immersive art exhibitions have opened their doors across the nation this autumn. Which is particularly exciting, because interstate borders are all fully open for the first time since the start of the pandemic — and there are cheap flights aplenty. So, get out your diaries and plan trips to walk over giant Monet artworks, visit Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' and explore decaying rooms filled with street art. We've rounded up the best art exhibitions happening across the country this autumn.

  • 7

    If you were looking for a reason to take a local holiday interstate this year, the NGA has not just one but 60, because that’s how many works its huge Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London exhibition features. Hitting the Australian Capital Territory from March 5–June 14, 2021, it features the largest batch of works to venture beyond the United Kingdom in National Gallery’s 192-year history.

    The gallery isn’t joking about the showcase’s title, either. When you’ll be exhibiting Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, you can throw around the word ‘masterpiece’ as much as you like. Other high-profile works include Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 34, plus Vermeer’s A Young Woman seated at a Virginal. And, artist-wise, Titian, Velázquez, Goya, Turner, Renoir, Cézanne, Botticelli, El Greco, Constable, Van Dyke, Gainsborough and Gauguin are all also on the bill.

    When peering at the exhibition’s pieces, art aficionados will be taken through seven important periods in Western European art history, from a range that spans 450 years. That means exploring work from the Italian Renaissance, checking out the Dutch painting of the Golden Age, and feasting your eyes on British portraiture — as well as scoping out pieces from the 17th- and 18th-century Grand Tour, Spanish art from the 17th century, works that focus on landscape and the picturesque, and examining the birth of modern art.

    Image: Installation view, Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, The National Gallery, London © The National Gallery, London.

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  • 6
    Monet & Friends

    2020 didn’t bring much that sparked joy, but it did let Sydneysiders wander through a large-scale, multi-sensory Vincent van Gogh exhibition that projected Dutch master’s works onto walls, columns and floors. In 2021, art lovers can repeat the feat, this time with a heap of French Impressionist masterpieces — because Monet & Friends — Life, Light & Colour is heading to town from March.

    The idea behind Monet & Friends is the same as its predecessor. It stems from the same team as well. As you wander around the Royal Hall of Industries in Moore Park from Friday, March 12, you’ll feast more than just your eyes on huge projections of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas’ work. Light, colour, sound and fragrance are also all part of the exhibition, which is designed to make you feel as if you’re walking right into the hefty array of paintings.

    The list of 19th- and early 20th-century artists showcased goes on, too, including Édouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisley and Mary Cassatt. Also featured are Gustave Caillebotte, Armand Guillaumin and Henri-Edmond Cross, plus Paul Signac and Georges Seurat.

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  • 5
    Rone in Geelong

    Street artist Rone has a well-documented knack for taking on unexpected spaces as canvases for his distinctive large-scale works. In 2017, he staged an immersive installation in an abandoned weatherboard house for The Omega Project, while 2019 saw him reimagine the deserted Art Deco Burnham Beeches mansion for sell-out installation Empire. Now, the celebrated artist returns to his hometown of Geelong to transform Geelong Gallery into an immersive, experiential exhibition.

    Featuring the first comprehensive solo survey of Rone’s long-running career, Rone in Geelong captures the artist’s fascination with the concepts of beauty and decay. Visitors will be treated to a sprawling collection of street art, early stencil works and photographs from the many abandoned spaces he’s reimagined as temporary art installations over the years.

    One of these past exhibitions will be reborn with a specially commissioned 3D recreation, while an exclusive new installation will see Rone overhaul the precinct’s historic Douglass Gallery into a derelict space decked out with plenty of his signature painted murals. Exploring the inevitability of decay, he’ll play on the room’s grand architectural features with help from interior stylist and longtime collaborator Carly Spooner. A haunting soundtrack by Nick Batterham will bring the installation to life.

    Image: Rone, ‘I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain’ (2016) from the Empty series, Geelong Gallery. Purchased with funds generously donated by Geelong Contemporary, 2019. Copyright Rone.

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  • 4
    House of Mirrors

    Since Dark Mofo first introduced House of Mirrors back in 2016, the installation has sat at the top of everyone’s must-do list. Created by Australian installation artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a walkthrough space filled with reflective surfaces that will not only strands you in a maze of your own image, but turns your likeness into a kaleidoscope.

    After touring the country, the world’s largest travelling mirror maze has returned to Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art. The installation was unveiled in late 2020 as part of the museum’s post-pandemic revamp and reopening.

    Is it fun, creepy or both? Wander through the disorienting, perception-altering, panic-inducing, optical illusion-based labyrinth and decide for yourself. The modern, minimalist twist on the fairground classic features 40 tonnes of steel and 15 tonnes of mirrors — with no added gimmicks, no special effects, no soundtrack or soundscape.

    Image: House of Mirrors (2016), Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney. Photo by MONA/Jesse Hunniford, courtesy of MONA, Hobart, Tasmania.

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  • 3

    Restrictions and lockdowns have meant many Melbourne art galleries have spent more time closed than open in 2020. But it seems the culture gods have smiled down and cut us a little slack when it comes to one of the biggest, most anticipated art events to hit the city in three years. With art galleries now able to begin reopening, the NGV Triennial returned for its blockbuster second iteration this summer, taking over NGV International from Saturday, December 19 until Sunday, April 18.

    Held every three years, the Triennial made its huge debut in 2017, pulling a hefty 1.23 million visitors and remaining the NGV’s most visited exhibition even today. Triennial 2020 looks set to follow suit, as artists from over 30 different countries share a diverse spread of works reflecting on a truly unique time in our world’s history. Melbourne art lovers will be overwhelmed by the free large-scale exhibition of international contemporary art, design and architecture, showcasing 86 projects by more than 100 artists, designers and collectives.

    Expect to see US artist Jeff Koons pay homage to the goddess of love Venus with a towering mirror-finished sculptural piece, while renowned interior designer Faye Toogood reimagines a series of gallery spaces with commissioned furniture, tapestries, lighting, sculpture and scenography. Turkey’s Refik Anadol has put together a video work, capturing digitised memories of nature with help from artificial intelligence and machine learning. Meanwhile, a showcase by Yolngu woman Dhambit Mununggurr is replete with her trademark blue hues, including a set of 15 large-scale bark paintings.

    Image: Installation view of Tromarama’s work Solaris 2020 © Courtesy of the artists and Edouard Malingue Gallery. Photo: Tom Ross.

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  • 2
    The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire

    In recent years, Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art has played host to an array of weird and wonderful exhibits. The Hulk’s giant bed, a real-life snowman and Patricia Piccinini’s otherworldly field of not-quite-flowers have all graced the South Brisbane site’s halls and walls. But between Saturday, November 28, 2020–Monday, April 26, 2021, the cultural institution is heading in a completely different direction. A gallery-wide celebration of motorcycles mightn’t be the kind of thing you’d generally expect to find at GOMA; however, that’s exactly what’ll be on display.

    Called The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire, the Queensland-exclusive showcase explores the two-wheeled vehicle’s enduring appeal — from the way it looks and how it has evolved over the years, to the way it’s portrayed in popular culture and how it makes people feel. Obviously, the exhibition does so by displaying plenty of motorbikes. Sourced from public and private collections from around the world, more than 100 are riding into GOMA — with some dating back more than 150 years.

    That’d be the Perreaux steam-powered velocipede from 1871, which is the oldest-known motorbike on the planet. It’s joined by a selection of the first Aussie built and designed motorcycles, including one made in Brisbane in 1906; record-breaking bikes, such as the land speed record-breaking 1951 Vincent Black Lightning; and a lineup of super-modern motorcycles that represent the vehicle’s future.

    Installation view The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire 28 November 20 – 26 April 21 Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane Photograph: Chloë Callistemon, QAGOMA

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  • 1
    Clarice Beckett: The Present Moment

    We’re lucky to have access to Clarice Beckett’s work today. Beckett painted hundreds of paintings during the 1920s and 30s, before passing away in 1935 at the age of 48. Following her death, her artworks disappeared for decades before being rescued by Dr Rosalind Hollinrake, who salvaged 369 of Beckett’s paintings from a shed in rural Victoria.

    From Saturday, February 27 until Sunday, May 16, the Art Gallery of South Australia is presenting the most comprehensive Clarice Beckett retrospective ever, exhibiting nearly 130 of the artist’s works, including pieces from the private collections of Russell Crowe and Ben Quilty.

    Beckett’s work focuses on capturing the everyday world through muted and pastel tones and with a focus on natural light. In The Present Moment, these works are thematically displayed to chart the chronology of one single day — starting with sunrise and ending with nightfall.

    Image: Installation view: Clarice Beckett: The present moment, Art Gallery of SouthAustralia, Adelaide, 2021. Photo: Saul Steed.
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