Herald on Sunday
MASTERS ON OUR DOORSTEP
Australia has lined up some of the art world’s greatest works and now they’re available for New Zealanders to enjoy, writes Patricia Maunder
Visiting the world’s great art museums remains a dicey holiday option for now, but fortunately some of their masterpieces are in our neighbourhood this year. The major galleries in Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane are presenting blockbuster exhibitions art lovers will want to cross the Ditch to see.
Masters await in Canberra
Covering 450 years of Western European art, Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London, has opened at the National Gallery of Australia. Continuing until June 14, it gathers 61 works by illustrious names such as Titian, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Van Dyke, Gainsborough and Gauguin.
The British gallery’s first exhibition to tour internationally explores seven key periods and places, including the Italian Renaissance, the Dutch Golden Age and the emergence of modern art in France. Get in quick to see Van Gogh’s vivid Sunflowers in person, or one of about 30 exquisite Vermeers in existence.
More art: Free tours of Australia’s Parliament reveal art-collection highlights, while A$20 tours focus on the building’s art and furniture. Canberra Glassworks showcases contemporary glass creations and artists at work.
Arty accommodation: In the NewActon art-and-design precinct dotted with sculptures, the Ovolo Nishi boutique hotel’s pineapple-like facade stands out. Inside are original artworks and salvaged material reborn through edgy design. visitcanberra.com.au
French Impressionists in Melbourne
NGV International has long drawn crowds for its annual Winter Masterpieces exhibitions, and French Impressionism from The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on June 4-October 3 will be no exception. More than 100 works by artists such as Renoir, Monet, Degas and Pissaro have been selected from this American gallery’s renowned collection.
The exhibition highlights key features of the late 19th-century artistic movement, including vibrant colour and distinctive brushwork.
Until August 22, companion exhibition She-Oak and Sunlight: Australian Impressionism is presented steps away at NGV Australia. It gathers 270 works by artists such as Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin, who shared the French Impressionists’ love of painting outdoors. More art: Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibition is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (May 13-October 17), while Melbourne Street Art Tours step well beyond graffiti hub Hosier Lane.
Arty accommodation: Boutique art hotels such as The Olsen and The Cullen are well established, and design-forward, five-star W Melbourne only opened in February. visitmelbourne.com
More icons in Brisbane
Just as those masterpieces decamp from Canberra, scores more will be unveiled at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art. European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, presents 65 works from that stupendous American institution on June 12-October 17.
This Australian-exclusive exhibition charts important movements in Western European art, from the Renaissance in early 15th-century Italy to early 20thcentury Post-Impressionism. It includes priceless paintings by artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Turner and Van Gogh. Astonishingly, there’s another of those incredibly rare Vermeers too.
More art: The Black Card’s Brisbane Aboriginal Cultural Tour walks from public art to street art, galleries to library. Installations on the river and at key landmarks are always highlights of the Brisbane Festival (September 3-25).
Arty accommodation: Opened in 2019 under Story Bridge, overlooking the recently redeveloped Howard Smith Wharves precinct, The Fantauzzo art hotel has photorealistic-portrait painter Vincent Fantauzzo’s original works and prints. visitbrisbane.com.au
Other eye-popping exhibitions
Easily accessed from Melbourne, regional Victoria’s Bendigo Art Gallery continues its winning streak of fashion exhibitions from London’s V&A museum with the very mod Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary (until July 11). Nearby, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale inspires a photographic frenzy in this regional city (August 28-October 24).
Australia’s most popular annual exhibition, the Archibald Prize, celebrates its centenary in 2021 (June 5-September 26). This year’s parade of new Australian portraits is presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales alongside Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize. Sydney’s other much-loved annual art exhibition is Sculpture by the Sea (October 21-November 7).
The British Museum’s Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes brings 170 classical treasures to Perth’s new WA Museum Boola Bardip in June, then Canberra’s National Museum of Australia from December (although you could wait until its 2022 Auckland Museum outing).
Visually arresting festivals
Melbourne’s inaugural Rising festival (May 26-June 6) has a strong visual-art programme. Australian art star Patricia Piccinini’s signature hyper-real silicon sculptures in iconic Flinders St Station’s long-shuttered ballroom will be a highlight.
Another new festival, Illuminate Adelaide (July 16-August 1), promises an abundance of projections, large-scale lanterns and light-based immersive experiences.
Vivid Sydney (August 6-28) has been exploring such awesome visual art since 2009. It’s become a bonanza of light installations and 3D projections — including to particularly stunning effect on the Sydney Opera House.
For even warmer winter wonders, head to Australia’s tropical Top End for the Darwin Festival (August 5-22), which always presents an exciting showcase of indigenous art.