Dibirdibi 2008, Sally Gabori, Kaiadilt people, the Queensland Art Gallery
Australia is known for a lot of things—kangaroos, dingoes, Uluru, Bondi Beach, "barbies". Strangely enough, the one thing not exactly synonymous with Australia is art, yet this sunburnt country truly excels at it. In particular, art galleries where the buildings are as impressive as the collections. We dispatched our own culture vultures to bring you a few local surprises and esteemed icons—starting with the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The classical Greek frontage of this reputable Sydney collection plays a prominent role in the city. Here, you’ll find three permanent collections (Australian, post-16th century European and Asian) along with international touring exhibits that arrive regularly.
This summer, for instance, see the greatest Picasso exhibition ever to come to Australia: "Picasso’s Picassos" - personal and revealing works that he kept to shape his own legacy.
This rare opportunity to see the celebrated artist’s masterpieces is made possible only by the closure of the Musée National Picasso in Paris (for renovation). Some 150 paintings, drawings and sculptures will fill the Gallery of New South Wales—the only venue in Australia on the exhibition’s world tour.
Anyone up for Pollack or perhaps an Aboriginal Memorial? Head due north to Canberra and hit the National Gallery of Australia. Sit in front of Jackson Pollack’s Blue Pole and get lost in his famous drip stroke or be among the first to see the stunning eleven new purpose-built galleries dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. Better yet, immerse yourself in the creative splendor of Raphael, Botticelli, Bellini, Titian and more during a special exhibit of 15th & 16th century Italian Renaissance paintings from the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.
If you prefer your art a little more modern, head straight for Brisbane and the Queensland Art Gallery (think MOMA meets the National Gallery). From its superb mix of Renaissance to Victorian paintings, to its 20th century cinematography, pop-art and surrealist sculpture, the labyrinth-like modern space offers something new in every room. International artists include Anish Kapoor, Edgar Degas and Stanley Spencer. Don’t miss “Matisse: Drawing Life” a spectacular exhibition that features a Drawing Room installment with an abundance of objects to draw.
Finally (for now, at least), we head to Australia's capital of culture. The vibrant city of Melbourne floats our collective boat with countless independent art galleries that display quirky artworks by up-and-coming Australian artists. But the largest gallery in Australia (and the oldest public art gallery), is right here in Federation Square: the National Gallery of Victoria.
This grand dame and mother of Old Masters is so big that even on a busy day you’ll find yourself alone in a room. Put aside a good day or two to really appreciate the 65,000+ pieces on display, or simply enjoy one of your favorites. Bernini, Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Paolo Uccello, Paolo Veronese...you’ll find paintings, photography, sculpture, furniture, fashion, textiles and so much more—with pieces dating right back from ancient Greece, China and Egypt to 20th and 21st century masterpieces. If you visit just one gallery in Australia make sure it’s this one because it really does cover every artistic movement in Australian and international history.