These Are The Must-See Art Exhibitions On Show Across The Rest Of Australia This Year

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These Are The Must-See Art Exhibitions On Show Across The Rest Of Australia This Year

2021 is a blockbuster year for Australian galleries.

But one thing we always do when travelling to a major city abroad is to take a visit to one of their art galleries. And then we wondered, when was the last time we’d travelled to another Australian city to see an art exhibition? (Featured image: @dannie_jing)

With that said, here’s a list of art exhibitions happening around Australia that should definitely be on your radar if you’re considering a trip interstate or into the city.

1. The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire

Why: I’ve only ever ridden a motorcycle once, back when I was a kid visiting a friend on his farm (an old hand-me-down dirt bike), but that memory is still etched into my mind and every time I see one on the street, despite knowing virtually nothing about them, I cannot help but look and stare and remember the feeling of freedom I experienced.

Also, I reckon I looked damn cool riding one, which is what most people probably think. And they’re right. It’s probably the reason why motorcycles feature heavily across pop-culture and great films: think The Great Escape, Easy Rider, and Terminator 2. 

The Motorcycle exhibition at GOMA features 100 motorcycles from the past 150 years showcasing the ground-breaking designs that have shaped this iconic vehicle.

Where: Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

When: Closes 26 April, 2021

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2. 2020 Triennial

Why: Featuring 86 works and projects by artists, designers and collectives from across the globe as well as Australia—including 34 never-before-seen, specially commissioned works—it is safe to say that the NGV International is one huge art experience not to be missed. Some of the showcased works are from established and internationally recognised names, but there remains a strong contingent of emerging artists across multiple disciplines.

Where: Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria

When: closes 18 April

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3. PHOTO2021

Why: Photo2021 (originally meant to open in 2020) is Australia’s largest photography festival. In its inaugural year, more than 60 galleries and cultural institutions will take part. But, that’s just the beginning. The exhibition, which has commissioned works from Australian and international photographers, will also take to the streets and take over a number of public spaces across regional Victoria and the city—most notably around the Melbourne Metro construction sites.

The theme for this year’s event is The Truth.

Where: Melbourne (various locations)

When: 18 February – 7 March

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4. From Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces From The National Gallery, London

Why: This exhibition is not only the largest collection of artworks from London’s National Gallery to ever leave the UK, but it is also possibly one of the most exciting with 450 years of western European art calling the National Gallery of Austrlia home for three months. Highlights of the exhibition include the likes of Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 34Vermeer’s A Young Woman Seated at a Virginaland Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Joining these masterworks will be another 57 artworks spanning seven distinct Western European art periods.

Tickets to the exhibition also include entry into the Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now exhibition.

Where: Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia

When: 5 March – 14 June

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5. European Masterpieces From The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

Why: 65 European masterpieces will make the once-in-a-lifetime voyage because NYC’s The MET is under renovation this year.

Beginning in the 1420s with Fra Angelico’s The Crucifixion and finishing with one of Monet’s Water Lillies from 1909, visitors to Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art next year will be treated to portraitures, still-lifes, landscapes, and figure studies from artists who have either revolutionised the art world or changed the way we see the world itself.

Where: Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

When: 12 June – 17 October

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6. Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize


Why: Australia’s most renowned art prize is turning 100! To celebrate, the Art Gallery of NSW is holding a landmark exhibition exploring the history of the prize and the stories (and possibly the scandals) behind 100 carefully selected artworks which have come from across Australia and overseas from both public and private collections.

Such is the colossal nature of the Archibald Prize, this collection will begin touring Australia from November this year.

Where: Art Gallery of New South Wales

When: 5 June – 26 September

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7. Bruce Munro: From Sunrise Road

Why: British artist Bruce Munro is best known for his large-scale light installations, which generally take place outside like last year’s Field of Lights project outside Alice Springs. However, this year will see Munro’s first-ever Australian museum display at Victoria’s Heide Museum of Modern Art where his interest in the shared human experience will be explored in an interactive, playful and thought-provoking exhibition.

Where: Heide Museum of Modern Art

When: 12 June – 3 October

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8. Doug Aitken: New Era

Why: This is American artist Doug Aitken’s first ever show in the Southern Hemisphere. Exclusive to Sydney, this exhibition spans 25 years worth of work including ambitious large-scale installations which incorporate objects, photos and multi-screen displays.

Three of the big installations on display later this year include SONG 1 (2012), Sonic Fountain II (2013/2015), and NEW ERA (2018)—an immersive video installation inspired by the history and use of mobile phones.

Where: Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art

When: Opens 24 September

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9. Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces From the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Why: Since we can’t go to Paris, Paris is coming to us with more than 100 works by French artist Matisse arriving in Sydney from the Centre Pompidou. Spanning six decades and tracing the development of Matisse’s style and technique, it will be the largest collection of work by the French artist to ever appear in Australia.

Where: Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales

When: 20 November – 13 March

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10. The 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial

Why: Australia’s premier and largest recurring exhibition dedicated to contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and artists returns for its fourth iteration. This year’s exhibition will be curated by Hetti Perkin, an Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman, who has previously co-curated Australia’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1997 and is one of Australia’s ”most respected curators and cultural voices” (Nick Mitzevich, NGA Director).

Where: Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia

When: Late 2021 (Dates to be announced)

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11. The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

Why: Over the years, Brisbane’s QAGOMA has established an international dialogue with our neighbouring nations and this year’s tenth edition seeks to continue this by taking a fresh look at contemporary art across Australia, Asia and the Pacific. From Northern Oceania to West Asia, this year’s triennial will focus particular attention on First Nations artists as well as artists living outside of their home country.

Where: Brisbane’s Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art

When: 4 December – 25 April

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