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Six Unmissable Exhibitions to See in Sydney This Winter

Looking to escape the wintery weather? Use this season as an excuse to explore some of Sydney's most spectacular art exhibitions.
By Elyse Genrich and Concrete Playground
May 31, 2022
By Elyse Genrich and Concrete Playground
May 31, 2022


Looking to escape the wintery weather? Use this season as an excuse to explore some of Sydney's most spectacular art exhibitions.

From dazzling water-and-light performances to internationally renowned portraiture, this winter, Sydney has it all. As the weather gets colder, those looking to spend the season exploring Sydney's expansive art scene have a wide variety of exhibitions to choose from.

Kicking off the season with a bang, Vivid's larger-than-life outdoor light shows and live performances come to town. On chillier winter days, you can head indoors to check out the winners of the international Wildlife Photographer of the Year photo contest at the Australian National Maritime Museum or head to the Art Gallery of NSW for an exhibit of this year's Archibald Prize finalists.

No matter what you're looking for, this winter, you can find it. These are our picks for this season's must-see art exhibitions in Sydney.

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    The Archibald is Australia’s most prestigious portrait award, and this years finalists — alongside those considered for the Wynne and Sulman prizes — are on display at the Art Gallery of NSW this winter.

    The exhibition shows the 52 works that were shortlisted for the Archibald, 34 for the Wynne and 29 for the Sulman. The winner of the Archibald prize this year — a portrait called Moby Dickens by Sydney-based artist Blak Douglas — depicts Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, and is designed as a metaphor for the disastrous flooding in northern NSW earlier this year.

    This prize-winning portrait, alongside the other selections, will be on display in Sydney from Saturday, May 14 until Sunday, August 28.

    Photo: Excerpt of winner Archibald Prize 2022, Blak Douglas. Moby Dickens, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 300 x 200 cm © the artist, image © AGNSW, Mim Stirling. Sitter: Karla Dickens.

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    As we come into the cool winter months, it warms the heart to look forward to one of the flagship events on the Sydney calendar. Vivid Sydney will be back for its 12th year from May 27 to June 18 — and the 2022 iteration promises to be bigger than ever.

    The range of attractions on offer is many and varied but, at its core, Vivid Sydney is a light festival that gives colour and glow to the night sky and every conceivable canvas the city can provide. From illuminating some of Sydney’s most famous landmarks to immersive exhibitions that seek to alter your perception of reality, if you attend any of this year’s events and exhibitions, prepare to be dazzled.

    Photo: Yarrkalpa — Hunting Ground (2021), by the Martu Artists and Curiious with soundtrack by Electric Fields and Martu Artists (inspired by Yarrkalpa — Always Walking Country, 2014), Destination NSW 

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  • 4

    Whenever the Biennale of Sydney hits town, it always makes a splash. Returning for its 23rd event in 2022, the Biennale’s next huge celebration of art won’t be 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.

    Running until Monday, June 13, this year’s Biennale program will present more than 330 artworks by 89 participants, plus 400 events, all linked to its central concept — which means ‘stream’ in Latin.

    Entry to the Biennale is free — and the event also includes a program of talks and experiences, called The Waterhouse, at The Cutaway at Barangaroo.

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  • 3

    An exhibition exploring the beauty of underwater plant life has opened at the Royal Botanic Garden’s outdoor exhibition space, The Calyx. Inside the Tide recreates kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrass meadows above the ground — using land plants in order to demonstrate the marvelous aesthetic and ecological value of these marine environments.

    Over 20,000 plants have been installed inside the venue, including one of the largest vertical green walls in the southern hemisphere. The plant wall, that most recently played home to thousands of flowers for the exhibition InBloom, now springs forward with the lush green tones of underwater plant life.

    Inside the Tide is running until July 31, 2022. Throughout the exhibition, The Calyx will be open 10am–4pm daily and entry is available via donation.

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    The wonders of the animal kingdom have arrived at the Australian National Maritime Museum, all thanks to a huge exhibition of nature photography. Displaying until March 2023, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year showcase comes direct from London’s Natural History Museum — which has developed and produced the prestigious competition since 1965.

    Highlighting the astonishing sights that the natural world has to offer, this year’s contest attracted over 50,000 entries from 95 countries. From that huge number, 100 winning pics were chosen for their creativity, originality and technical excellence, and then tour internationally. And, you can see the eye-popping, awe- (and ‘awwwww’) inducing results during its Sydney stop right now.

    Photo: Jonny Armstrong, courtesy of Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Natural History Museum, London.

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    From a feminism-inspired ceramic car to a parcel made of pottery, The Powerhouse Museum’s Clay Dynasty will show you all you need to know about Australia’s recent ceramic history.

    Featuring over 400 objects by 160 different artists, the Powerhouse Museum’s Clay Dynasty exhibition is a comprehensive look at the museum’s extensive ceramics collection. The first major exhibition to celebrate the evolution of Australian studio ceramics, the exhibit features contemporary pieces, as well as works from more than 50 years of pottery history. This includes 70 new works of Australian pottery, including for the first time ever a collection of pottery made by Indigenous makers in the late 1960s at the Bagot pottery in Darwin.

    There are no bookings required and the exhibit is free to explore until January 29, 2023.

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Top Photo: Merinda Kelly – Citizen Archaeologies, 2017-18. Tinted recycled perspex and reclaimed objects, LED lights.

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