The Playmaker
Let's play
  • It's Saturday
    What day is it?
  • Now
    What time is it?
  • Anywhere in Sydney
    Where are you?
  • What do you feel like?
    What do you feel like?
  • And what else?
    And what else?

Ten Sensational Summer Exhibitions to See in Sydney This December

Featuring pioneering female artists, emerging photographers, quirky crochet and more.
By Lucy McNabb
December 07, 2017

Ten Sensational Summer Exhibitions to See in Sydney This December

Featuring pioneering female artists, emerging photographers, quirky crochet and more.
By Lucy McNabb
December 07, 2017


Featuring pioneering female artists, emerging photographers, quirky crochet and more.

The end of the year is upon us, which means you've only got a few more weeks to get your art fix before 2018 rolls around. Stand out new exhibition will offer gallery-goers a look at the work of pioneering Australian female artists from the first part of last century, emerging photographers from the Australian Centre for Photography's student community and one Victoria-based artist who specalises in crochet. Plus, there's a couple of big summer blockbusters that launched in November you should try and see before 2018 is out.

Below, we've put together a list of ten must-see exhibitions in Sydney this month.

  • 11
    Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum

    For the first time ever, the Art Gallery of New South Wales brings to Sydney masterpieces from the golden age of Dutch painting — a culturally confident, powerful era when the art of painting flourished. It was during this time that artists including Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer produced vivid works depicting the world around them, with subjects ranging from intense portraits and dramatic seascapes to tranquil scenes of domestic life and careful studies of fruit and flowers.

    Exclusive to Sydney, the exhibition features 76 artworks sourced from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, including seven pivotal paintings and 16 etchings by Rembrandt presented in a room dedicated solely to the celebrated artist. The exhibition also brings a rare and celebrated piece by Vermeer, Woman reading a letter (1663). Jacob van Ruisdael, recognised as one of the most important landscapists of the era, and Jan Davidsz de Heem, the revered flower painter, also take their place among many other masters of this golden age. Meticulously painted, these artworks remain as vital and fresh as they were 400 years ago.

  • 10
    Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean

    A 30-year retrospective of one of the most dazzling pioneers of multimedia installations and experimental video art opens at the MCA this month with Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean. In what’s being heralded as the most comprehensive exhibition of the Swiss artist’s work ever held in an Australian gallery, you’ll get to see pieces right from the start of her practice (including her early single-channel videos created during the 1980s) up to her most recent immersive environments and large-scale audio-visual installations.

    A truly unique artist whose practice explores the connection between the human body, nature and technology, Rist creates colourful, enchantingly sensual worlds for viewers to lose themselves in – such as 4th Floor to Mildness, where you’ll get comfy on one of 18 beds and gaze upwards at a hypnotic underwater world projected onto massive abstract panels. It’s not often you lie down on a gallery floor amongst strangers to soak up some art — and its this particular atmosphere of community and togetherness within the way you experience Rist’s work that cements its charm. Taking place as part of the Sydney International Art Series, Sip My Ocean runs until February 18.

  • 9
    Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium

    Fans of Robert Mapplethorpe will no doubt have already snapped up tickets to the new survey exhibition of his work at AGNSW. Showcasing an impressive selection of portraits, figure studies, floral still lifes and erotic imagery reflecting his participation in both New York’s uptown art clique and underground gay scene, The Perfect Medium will grant fans an intimate, comprehensive insight into Mapplethorpe’s distinctive artistic methods and private world.

    As one of the most compelling, boundary-pushing late 20th century American artists, Mapplethorpe’s photography shaped an era, in part thanks to his portraits of the cultural idols of the 1970s and 80s (think Debbie Harry, Philip Glass and Mapplethorpe’s longtime muse Patti Smith). AGNSW director Dr. Michael Brand says that Mapplethorpe played an influential role in establishing photography as a valid form of contemporary art: “whether he was photographing a figure, a flower or a fetish, Mapplethorpe’s subjects were unified by an enduring and unflinching quest for beauty.” Compulsory viewing for anyone interested in photography and the 1970s/80s New York art scene.

  • 8
    Future Park

    This summer, imaginations young and old will run wild, as the interactive Future Park arrives at the Powerhouse Museum. Developed by teamLab, a collective of ‘ultratechnologists’ whose cutting-edge installations are currently captivating audiences in Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, San Francisco and more, this immersive exhibition will see visitors build a huge collective artwork, inspired by the future. Across eight different interactive installations, Future Park is fuelled by human interaction, evolving in real time as visitors engage and leave their own mark on the artworks.

    Collaboration is nurtured and shared experiences are encouraged — and it’s meant for kidults as well as kids. The Light Ball Orchestra installation invites visitors to manipulate a series of moveable balls to create music and light shows, while Sketch Town is a dynamic world populated by vehicles, buildings and townscapes visitors have drawn themselves. Sketch Town Papercraft will even see your drawings scanned into 3D sketches that can later be printed in 3D.

  • 7
    Intrepid Women: Australian women artists in Paris 1900-1950

    A new summer exhibition at S.H. Ervin Gallery showcases 30 female Australian artists who travelled to Paris for study, work and inspiration. Featuring works from renowned artists including Dorrit Black, Margaret Preston, Grace Crowley, Stella Bowen and Margaret Olley, Intrepid Women celebrates the creative expansion and freedom from convention gained from time spent in the rich Parisian milieu.

    Highlighting both the courage and determination required to make such a move during the first half the 20th century (it took South Australian artist Marie Tuck ten solid years of working and saving before she was able to travel) the exhibition explores the impact Paris had on the careers of these women as they studied, exhibited in Paris salons and left bank galleries, and won awards, with some – like Dorrit Black – returning home to Australia to shake up the local scene with their first-hand understanding of the modernist movement.

  • 6

    Budding photographer? Then you should definitely check out Photostart – the Australian Centre for Photography’s annual show celebrating the brightest talents within their student community. Curated from works produced throughout this year’s program of photography courses, the diverse exhibition will appeal to both those who like getting behind a camera lens and those who just like looking at a great picture.

    This year’s show introduces the inaugural 7 Wentworth Selborne Award, a $2000 cash prize that recognises the photograph that best displays both technical ability and originality. You’ll also be able to attend talks, workshops and portfolio reviews on Saturday, December 16.

  • 5
    At Your Door: The Doormen of New York City

    AT YOUR DOOR: The Doormen of New York City marks the first large-scale photographic exhibition for New York-based Australian photographer Alina Gozin’a. Capturing a quintessential aspect of New York culture, the show takes the doormen of the city’s grandest buildings — who guard a multiplicity of secrets but never share their own — and makes them the subject. In contrast to her usual portraits of movie stars and politicians, Gozin’a instead chose to “shine a light on these fascinating invisible characters who keep Manhattan turning”.

    The result is 13 large-scale El-Greco-inspired, painterly photographic portraits of 13 doormen, all immigrants from Eastern Europe. “I am fascinated by the real cost of immigration,” explains Gozin’a, who herself immigrated to Australia from the then USSR aged 14. “These men have stories of great sacrifice that I wanted to share with the world.”

    Each doorman is captured first in his uniform, then in his own clothes, with the intent to strip away their professional façade and reveal them as real people with their own intricately complex lives. Very much Gozin’a’s homage to her adopted city of New York, the show nevertheless asks whether the role of ‘doorman’ is a charming old-world tradition that should continue or an outdated relic of the privileged classes that alienates the man in uniform.

  • 4
    Trevor Smith: The Cocktail Hour

    Victoria-based artist/curator Trevor Smith’s new show The Cocktail Hour opens at Michael Reid this month. Showcasing over 40 of his unique, soft sculptural textile works, the quirky exhibition will be his largest to date.

    A fan of craft and textiles since childhood, Smith learnt to crochet in primary school (his mum taught him), received his first sewing machine at 15 and in Year 10 proudly won Naracoorte High School’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Home Economics (in which subject he was the sole male student). Later focusing on soft sculpture and traditional patchwork, crochet was put aside for several decades, until 2009, when he took part in Regional Arts Victoria project The Big Hole Yarn and his passion was reignited.

    The Cocktail Hour brings together an impressive collection of humorous creations with a nostalgic domestic vibe – think kitchen appliances, retro foods, tea-cosies – with Smith drawing particular inspiration from Women’s Weekly dinner party cookbooks from the 1970’s. The works will make you laugh but also potentially blow your mind at the technique involved (particularly if you’ve ever thrown down a crochet hook in despair). And if you’ve never seen a crocheted pavlova… now’s your chance.

  • 3
    Noula Diamantopoulos: Agape

    Sydney-based writer, psychotherapist and multidisciplinary artist Noula Diamantopoulos has a new show and it’s all about L-O-V-E. In a series of poetic neon artworks, Agape asks what it means to fall in love, whether we can accurately define love, and why love can hurt so much sometimes — ultimately arguing that it shouldn’t.

    An artist known for exploring universal emotion and human feeling, Diamantopoulos recently completed a public art commission as part of the ‘Love Shouldn’t Hurt’ domestic violence campaign. You might have seen the massive mural depicting domestic violence survivor Felicity Cook at 182 George Street, crafted from 20,000 jar lids? That was her.

    In this latest exhibition, each work features a Greek word or poetic phrase — in Diamantopoulos’s own handwriting — that refer to various facets of love, plus a single abstract drawing piece full of symbolic imagery. Look closely and you might see the double helix of the DNA sequence, or maybe even the muscles and arteries of the human heart.

  • 2

    Newly incorporated Artist-Run-Initiative AIRspace Projects INC will be holding a fundraiser-meets-exhibition this month, starting with a celebratory opening night on December 1.

    For the past four years Sally Clarke and Brenda Factor have been running the formerly independent space and pulling together some killer exhibitions. Now the team are excited to be rolling out a bunch of new projects including video weekends and AIRseum — an unconventional museum dreamt up by artist, scientist and museologist Catherine Polcz.

    The exhibition spreads across four galleries and features both established and emerging artists including Liz Day, Yiorgos Zafiriou, Katy Plummer, Ali Noble, Stella Chen and Susan Andrews. You’ll be able to snap up multiples, series, publications and even originals, all to support what the gallery calls “a struggling species” (i.e., artists). It’s a good opportunity for would-be-investors, and a chance to buy a truly awesome Christmas present for someone.

  • 1
    Sweet Country Stills Exhibition
    Four photographers capture the between-the-takes action of Warwick Thornton's stunning new feature.
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x