Beyond GOMA: The Brisbane exhibitions you need to see before the year is out
Not long ago few would’ve considered Brisbane a thriving centre for Australia’s art scene. But GOMA changed all that.
Eleven years after it joined the older Queensland Art Gallery in South Brisbane (together, they’re known as QAGOMA), the gallery continues to help redefine Brisbane’s arts landscape, the appetite for cutting edge and insightful exhibitions catching on with the city’s museums, universities and public libraries.
In short, there’s always something worth checking out. Here are the exhibitions you need to see before the year is out.
Brisbane Powerhouse Arts
World Press Photo Exhibition, June 30 – July 22
Every July the Brisbane Powerhouse turns itself over to the annual World Press Photo Exhibition, rounding up the prize-winners from the annual World Press Photo Contest. World Press Photo 2018 showcases some of the most stunning and important images of the past year, profiling the work of 42 photographers from 22 countries, including Australia.
If nothing else the exhibition gets you down to the well-to-do suburb of New Farm. Match up a visit with a stroll through New Farm Park — a favourite among locals — or grab a drink at Bar Alto, with its spectacular views across the river. For those willing to roam a little further, hit up the cafes on Merthyr Road and Brunswick Street.
Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection, March 24 – August 5
It was a sign of GOMA’s confidence that it commissioned this almighty retrospective of Patricia Piccinini’s startling and often confronting artwork. The Melbourne artist’s silicone and fibreglass sculptures seem to splice together humans, animals and machines, tapping into concerns regarding the impact of technology on the planet.
It’s bracing stuff but GOMA’s first major show for a contemporary Australian artist has been a huge success, with visitors drawn in by the exhibition’s clever, engaging layout and its ultimately hopeful subtext. Tie it in with a visit to the cafes, bars and restaurants of nearby Fish Lane.
Egyptian Mummies, March 16 – August 26
This immensely impressive exhibition allows you to get up close and personal with six mummies and more than 200 artefacts from the British Museum’s iconic Egyptian collections. The showcase makes great use of CT scans, helping visitors immerse themselves in the daily life of ancient Egypt without things ever getting too bookish.
QUT Art Museum
Abstraction: Celebrating Australian Women Abstract Artists, June 16 – August 26
Salon de Fleurus, June 16 – August 26
Brisbane’s medium-sized galleries are playing host to some brilliant travelling exhibitions throughout 2018. The QUT Art Museum consistently excels with the quality of its shows, and one of this year’s best is Abstraction: Celebrating Australian Women Abstract Artists.
A National Gallery of Australia exhibition, Abstraction shines a light on the role female artists have played in one of the most influential movements in art history. Featuring works from artists such as Normana Wight, Grace Crowley and Dorrit Black, the exhibition presents the ways Australian women have championed abstraction, helping keep it alive in the 21st century.
Running over the same dates at the Art Museum is Salon de Fleurus, a fascinating reconstruction of Gertrude Stein’s celebrated Parisian salon. A century ago it was a regular meeting place for icons such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso (as well as Stein herself).
The Art Museum boasts a prime spot overlooking the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. After your visit, stroll along its wide boulevards before grabbing a pour-over at Coffee Anthology, frequently rated the best specialty coffee joint in town.
Queensland Art Gallery
Tony Albert: Visible, June 2 – October 7
If you’re at GOMA for the Patricia Piccinini exhibition, be sure to whip over the concourse to the original Queensland Art Gallery for Visible, indigenous artist Tony Albert’s first major solo exhibition in an Australian state gallery.
Visible surveys the Townsville-born, Brisbane-based Albert’s work from object-based assemblage to painting, photography and video, including his clever re-appropriations of what he calls “Aboriginalia” (kitschy objects and images that tap into white ideas of Aboriginality). It’s insightful and very engaging stuff.
Various exhibitions, August – October
One of the new breed of small galleries following in the wake of GOMA, TWFINEART built its reputation on presenting contemporary American painters to a local audience. More recently, owner Tove Langridge has added artists from Europe and the UK to his regular roster of shows.
Coming up are exhibitions from the Oslo-based Sebastian Helling, Los Angeles painter Bryan Ricci and multi-disciplinary Berliner Michael Weissköeppel. Yes, all the works are typically for sale but don’t think that means this is a stuffy gallery experience — Langridge works hard to welcome everyone from serious collectors to folks who simply want to learn about art.
Besides, the location is a winner, at the swanky end of Fortitude Valley and on the doorstep of James Street. There’s Bellissimo for coffee, Gerard’s Bistro for lunch and plenty of shopping along a long line of natty boutiques.
University of Queensland Art Museum
Defying Empire, July 28 – November 11
Judy Watson: Concealed Histories, August 18 – November 25
Another National Gallery of Australia exhibition, this time being shown at the UQ Art Museum, Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial brings together the works of 30 contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. This year’s exhibition packs extra potency given it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that first recognised Aboriginal people as Australians.
Artists such as Tony Albert, Sebastian Arrow, Julie Gough and Fiona Foley all feature in a survey of Australian Indigenous communities’ activism from first contact until the present day.
The triennial ties in neatly with Judy Watson: Concealed Histories. The Brisbane-based Watson is a Waanyi woman of north-west Queensland and one of the state’s most revered artists. Concealed Histories presents a selection of etchings and paintings from UQ’s own collection that tap into the research-driven Watson’s obsession with archival records and museum collections.
After your visit, mix with students at sunny pizza joint, Saint Lucy or head to St Lucia Golf Links for drinks overlooking the golf course.
Museum of Brisbane
Life in Irons, May 18 – October 28
Our Collection: Voice in Action, March 28 – September 2
Bristopia, April 27 – October 14
The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive, November 23 – April 22, 2019
Since moving into City Hall in 2003, Museum of Brisbane (not to be confused with Queensland Museum) has become a neat counterpoint to QAGOMA on the far side of the river, eschewing blockbuster exhibitions to instead run a lens over its own city. 2018 is no different, with a bunch of brilliant shows floating through the space.
Life In Irons examines Brisbane’s history as a brutal penal colony, one designed by the British government to “reinstate transportation as an object of real terror to all classes of society”; Voice in Action explores the new wave of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander urban art activism that emerged in Brisbane in the 1980s; and Bristopia is an interactive exhibition that reflects on what binds the city together as a community.
Later in the year comes The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive, which will feature 200 garments by Brisbane designers Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson, as well as stories from their iconic Easton Pearson fashion label.
A trip to the museum lands you right in the centre of the city. Match it with shopping on Queen Street Mall or exploring the bars, restaurants and cafes along Burnett Lane.
The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial Of Contemporary Art (APT9), November 24 – April 28, 2019
For two and a half decades the bellwether for Brisbane’s shift in focus towards Asia, QAGOMA now boasts one of the world’s best broad surveys of Asia Pacific artwork. Every three years it rolls it all out for the Asia Pacific Triennial, the galleries’ signature blockbuster exhibition.
Over 80 artists will be exhibiting and, as usual, a substantial number of new works are being commissioned specifically for the show. Like always, APT9 will include a bunch of activities for little gallery goers, including interactive artworks, hands-on making and multimedia activities.