The force is strong with Sydney arts

Photo of Annelies Gartner

Art, science and history lovers have plenty of reasons to visit the harbour-side city.

From French and Australian impressionists to striking black and white photographs, singing and dancing Mormons and finite moments in nature — Sydney is serving up a banquet for art lovers.

Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage brings an exceptional collection of works from St Petersburg, Russia, to the Art Gallery NSW.

As well as featuring many masterpieces, the exhibition tells the story of Russians Sergey Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. The two wealthy businessmen were visionary collectors who amassed dozens of works from impressionists long before the rest of Europe’s interest was piqued. 

More than two-thirds of the 65 works on display are from Shchukin and Morozov’s collection and includes paintings by Cezanne, Picasso, Gauguin and Matisse.

A video installation by Saskia Bodeke and Peter Greenway is another highlight of the exhibition which is on until March 3. The gallery is open daily from 10am-5pm.

Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage is part of the Sydney International Art Series as is David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948-2018 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. 

The prolific South African photographer captured the turbulent history of his country over seven decades. This retrospective is the largest of his work to come to the region and marks his final project before his death on June 25 this year. 

A strong subject in his photography is South Africa’s mining industry and Goldblatt also documented the Pilbara blue asbestos mining town of Wittenoom. Images from his visit to WA are also on display. 

The sprawling, historical exhibition, grouped into series of topics, features more than 350 artworks and is on until March 3. The gallery is also open daily from 10am-5pm and on Wednesdays until 9pm.

John Russell: Australia’s French Impressionist is also on at the Art Gallery NSW and is a must-see if you’re travelling east before November 11. 

The Sydney-born artist was little known in his own country during his career but counted Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and Henry Matisse among his friends. 

The exhibition features works by some of his contemporaries as well as a large collection of the artist’s own paintings, the influence of pals such as van Gogh evident in much of his work. 

Every city loves a festival to celebrate the arts and the harbour-side metropolis is no exception. Sydney Festival sets the stage for a diverse array of music, theatre, dance, visual arts and free and family events. 

Highlights of the 2019 program include Home, an absurdest experience as an empty stage is transformed into a share house, and Shanghai Mimi, a cabaret that immerses the audience in the world of the bustling Chinese city. 

Schaubuhne and Complicite bring the technical and sexually charged Beware of Pity, a portrait of Europe heading towards chaos, and Man with the Iron Neck sees Ash start to idolise a 20th century stuntman after the death of a friend.

The 50th anniversary of the moon landing and refugees are two strong themes featured throughout works in this cultural feast which runs from January 9-27. 

Star Wars fans will feel the force pull them towards the Powerhouse Museum next month. If you’ve ever wondered if you belong to the dark or light side or if you’re more likely to feel at home among the Wookies, Ewoks or Trandoshans, then Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition will take you on a quest of discovery. 

Visitors will answer interactive questions throughout the exhibit to create their own Star Wars-inspired character from more than 200 possibilities. 

The exhibition uses technology and aspects of neuropsychology, psychology, and biochemistry, interwoven with a collection of more than  200 original artefacts, costumes, and props from the Lucasfilm archives, to create the intergalactic identities.

If at the end of the experience you’re sure you’re more like Yoda than Darth Vader there’s plenty of time to recreate your identity, with the exhibition on from November 16 until June 10. The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm. 

At the Australian National Maritime Museum there are vessels docked in the harbour for the whole family to explore, including the HM Bark Endeavour Replica, HMAS Vampire and submarine HMAS Onslow. Inside the museum permanent displays give insight into Australia’s maritime history and activities rooms let youngsters unleash their creativity. 

The museum also houses temporary exhibitions and at the moment is home to James Cameron — Challenging the Deep exhibition which showcases the director’s two passions: film and deep sea exploration. 

Props from movies The Abyss and Titanic feature as well as artefacts and specimens from his journeys to the bottom of the sea and a prototype of the deep-diving submersible Deepsea Challenger which was built in Sydney. Cameron piloted the submarine to 10,898m, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, on March 26, 2012. The Academy Award-winning director is a pioneer of underwater filming techniques which he developed during the filming of 1989 sci-fi drama The Abyss.

 Large screens throughout the gallery highlight his explorations of the Titanic and Bismarck and filmmaking practices. A theatre at the museum also screens his 3-D film Deepsea Challenge. The exhibition runs until January 30 and is open daily  from 9am-5pm.

Nature lovers can’t bypass the Australian Museum. As well as permanent displays of fauna from the past and present, minerals, celebrations of indigenous culture, archaeological discoveries and areas for children to create, the museum holds  special events.

Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2018 showcases moments captured by professional and junior photographers. The gallery walls are adorned with images taken in the bioregions of Australia, New Zealand, the Antarctic and New Guinea.  The exhibition is on until January 28 and the museum is open daily from 9.30am-5pm.

In the trendy inner-city suburb of Chippendale, the White Rabbit Gallery is home to the largest collection of 21st-century contemporary Chinese art. 

The gallery at 30 Balfour Street is open from Wednesdays to Sundays, from 10am-5pm, and includes a Tea House serving handmade dumplings and Chinese brews. Continuing the Asian flavour, a short walk away is Spice Alley with  a selection of hawker-style dishes from across the globe. 

Brett Whiteley Studio is exhibiting Wildlife and other Emergencies until May. The collection of drawings, paintings and sculptures explores one of the artist’s favourite themes — animals and birds from observation. 

 The gallery, at 2 Raper Street, Surrey Hills, has changing exhibitions throughout the year. Admission is free and the gallery is open from Fridays- Sundays, from 10am-4pm. 

The outrageous musical The Book of Mormon is not for the faint of heart. Audiences are taken on a colourful journey with two fresh-faced missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints who are sent to Uganda to convert locals. Not all goes to plan for the two young Mormons — the exuberant Elder Price and his goofy partner Elder Cunningham — in this adults-only hilarious ride. It is at the Lyric Theatre with tickets  on sale until December 16 (the season may be extended).

If you’re travelling to Sydney in the near future, the popular musical Evita is at the Sydney Opera House until November 3. Tina Arena stars as Eva, the first lady of Argentina who was born into poverty but rose to become the wife of president Juan Peron.

The original Broadway and West End production from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber is directed by  Hal Prince.

If there’s any life left in your legs after this ample arts trail enjoy the outdoors with one of the many beautiful coastal walks — you may even manage to snap your own entry for the next nature exhibition.

(Top image: Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition is coming to Sydney)


Annelies Gartner travelled to Sydney as a guest of Destination NSW. They have not seen or approved the story.


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