Thirty years ago, the idea of the Gold Coast as a global cultural destination would have been seen at best as a symptom of misguided ambition and at worst the punchline to a pretty good joke. But there’s no denying the reality today. With the growth of the Gold Coast’s Bleach Festival (see story on pages 12-13) and renewed interest in cultural infrastructure, might the mecca of surf and sun be overtaken in coming decades by the arts? Hold on to your wide-brimmed hats. The signs are strong. By the look of it, Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art is the school excursion destination du jour. Either that or the city’s best-behaved truants collectively descend on the riverside cultural cathedral to get their kicks. Whatever the case, it was heartening to see the institution so full of life last week. It’s a testament to director Chris Saines and his team’s 10th anniversary exhibition Sugar Spin, which has seen record numbers through its doors. GOMA is on track for 500,000 visitors to the show, outstripping its previous best, 21st Century: Art in the First Decade, which registered 450,000 in 2011. It’s a big year for GOMA, which recently announced a Marvel retrospective in addition to its ambitious Gerhard Richter blockbuster in October. The Richter show is a coup for Queensland — the acclaimed German artist remains in high demand (last year his painting of a fighter jet, Dusenjager, sold for $US25.6m) — and by all accounts the task of bringing it all together is a herculean effort. But unless Richter hitches a ride on a Dusenjager, the artist — who rarely travels — would seem unlikely to make it here. And at 84, that would be more than forgivable. Interestingly, I understand Richter won’t be the only internationally acclaimed octogenarian artist being celebrated at GOMA this year. Expect word on that soon. Still in Brisbane, I had the great pleasure of attending the opening night of Queensland Ballet’s Raw last Friday. The triple bill featured work by new company associate Liam Scarlett and QB balletmaster Greg Horsman, but the jaw dropper was Ghost Dances. The Christopher Bruce work, created 36 years ago in response to Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, was in equal parts confronting, moving and beautiful. As this newspaper’s dance critic Deborah Jones wrote earlier this week, Ghost Dances’ focus on human rights abuses is still, sadly, germane. Kudos to Li Cunxin for securing this world-class work for Brisbane. Last year 99.6 per cent of tickets for QB’s season sold out (mostly before a curtain was raised), so Li is evidently doing more than one thing right. Tickets might be in limited supply for Raw, but chance your arm at the box office. This is one worth seeing.