Wonders Down Under: Installations, exhibitions and events going down a storm in Australia
By Richard Jones
Australians love their outdoor lifestyles, so it’s only natural that some of the country’s art should be alfresco too.
You don’t have to go inside a gallery to experience world-class art in Australia, and as the integration of digital technology with interactive art continues to sit alongside more traditional pieces, there are no end of immersive spectacles on offer, both outdoors and in.
If you are planning a trip Down Under soon, and have an interest in art, here are a few suggestions.
There’s a wave of new art installations sweeping across the outback in the NT, with icons illuminated and ancient stories and monuments being brought to life. The highly anticipated Wintjiri Wiru experience was created by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, in consultation with the local Aboriginal community, the Anangu people. The first drone show of this scale to perform nightly, it showcases Aboriginal culture through a breathtaking state-of-the-art performance using over 1,000 drones to illuminate the sky above Uluru. Back in April, Bruce Munro opened his second masterpiece, Light Towers, a magnificent display of 69 towers, each made up of approximately 220 bottles filled with fibre optic cables. The piece is part of a new multi-million-dollar partnership with the Kings Canyon resort, the closest accommodation to Watarrka National Park.
New South Wales
One of the biggest visual events on the planet, Vivid Sydney is renowned for its spectacular displays of colours and sound, as well as the backdrop it shines a light on. Onlookers can witness the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Darling Harbour and the inner-city skyscrapers transform into an urban playground of lights, music, and art. Celebrating its 13th year, Vivid Sydney brings together the world’s brightest light artists, musicians, thought leaders and, for the first time, food creatives, so you can see it all shine together. Among the new installations for 2023 is The Last Ocean by Jen Lewin. Crafted from reclaimed ocean plastic, the American artist has created an otherworldly ice field that mimics the geometric tessellations of Antarctica’s glaciers.
Located in Townsville in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) is a series of installations by world-famous British underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor that highlight reef conservation, restoration, and education, and a deep connection to the community. MOUA, the only underwater art museum in the Southern Hemisphere, has recently unveiled its Ocean Sentinel sculpture artworks, which form a snorkel trail for visitors to the Coral Greenhouse at John Brewer Reef. The sentinels are a hybrid form sculpture – a synthesis of human figures and natural marine forms – and are said to be the protectors of the Reef. Each stand 2.2m tall, weigh in at 2.8 tonnes and are crafted from a new Earth friendly concrete and reinforced marine stainless steel.
Shining a light on South Australia throughout July, Illuminate is a city-wide spectacle that binds Adelaide/Tarntanya in a sea of light. With a mix of free and ticketed events, there is no shortage of colour displays throughout the city as laneways, street-fronts, and open spaces are illuminated by incredible light-focused artworks. Since 1912, the Osborn family have grown grapes and made wine in McLaren Vale. In 2017, the family opened the d’Arenberg Cube – an iconic building in the shape of a Rubix Cube to reflect the fact that wine making is like a puzzle. The Cube is home to a surrealist exhibition featuring 25 authentic Salvador Dali bronze sculptures and graphic artworks. Finally, the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide has one of the largest art museum collections in country, spanning 2000 years.
Located on the banks of the Derwent, a short ferry trip from Hobart, the remarkable Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) has three levels of underground galleries. The fun begins with a river ride on a camouflaged ferry from Hobart’s waterfront, before Mona’s mirrored entry gives you a clue that your senses are in for a wild ride among installations by American light artist James Turrell, plus works by the likes of Hirst, Picasso, Piccinini and Ai Weiwei. Mona is also home to Moorilla winery, Source and Faro restaurants, several bars and cafes, luxury accommodation pavilions, a library, a cemetery and a tennis court. They also host two festivals – their summer festival, Mona Foma and Dark Mofo during the winter.
Inside Australia was installed by Turner Prize-winning British sculptor Sir Antony Gormley on Lake Ballard in 2003, with permission from Wangkatha Aboriginal Elder Paddy Walker. The closest outpost to the lake is Menzies, a historic gold mining town that once had a population of 5,000 but has dwindled to just over 100 in past years. It was here that Gormley drew inspiration for his work: the 51 life-sized sculptures that appear ghostly, almost like mirages on the horizon, but upon approach the statues come to life. Lightscape, the internationally acclaimed series of light trails, is heading to beautiful gardens of Perth’s Kings Park for the first time in June.
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia. Founded in 1861, its two magnificent buildings are home to a vast treasury of more than 70,000 works that span thousands of years and a wealth of ideas, disciplines and styles. Melbourne is also known as one of the world’s great street art capitals, with its famous laneways, including Hosier Lane, ACDC Lane, Centre Place, Croft Alley and Union Lane, the best place to see urban art. You can also discover Aboriginal Victoria at the Koorie Heritage Trust, who offer a range of authentic Victorian Aboriginal experiences from the Birrarung Wilam (River Camp) walk. Finally, set over 134 hectares on the southern-most tip of the Mornington Peninsula, Pt Leo Estate is a captivating celebration of art, nature, design, food and wine.
For more information on holidays in Australia, go to: australia.com
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