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10 Unmissable Art Exhibitions of 2019

Art

From international blockbusters to local legends, 2019 offers a rich landscape of art exhibitions across Australia.

We have collated a guide to the best Australian galleries have to offer – running the full emotional gamut for cheerful to challenging, enchanting and empowering. Pull out your diary and jot down the dates below…

18th January, 2019
Miriam McGarry
Friday 18th January 2019

Escher x Nendo / Between Two Worlds

Escher X Nendo/Between Two Worlds combines the tessellating spatial magic of Dutch artist M.C. Escher, with Japanese design studio Nendo. Escher (1989-1972) is renown for visual trickery, impossible architecture and mind-bending puzzles, and in the hands of Nendo, these qualities are enhanced in the mind-boggling exhibition design. Through acts of gentle distortion, perspective play and illusion, prepare to see the iconic work of Escher from a whole new angle.

On now until April 7th, 2019
National Gallery of Victoria: International
180 St Kilda Road
Melbourne, Victoria

Love and Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate

Our enthusiasm for the Love and Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate is well established. This stunning exhibition sees the best of the Tate’s pre-Raphaelite paintings on tour in Australia – most never having visited our shores before. Key highlights include John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-52) and William Holmans Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience (1853), but the whole exhibition is a sumptuous affair of colour and rich detail. Swoon in front of these romantic masterpieces. So much hair envy from this era!

On now until April 28th, 2019
National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place East
Parkes, Australian Capital Territory

Nick Cave: Until

No, not THAT Nick CaveNick Cave is an American artist, most famous for his series of Soundsuit artworks. These bright and fanciful suits of sonic tapestry were initially made in response to the brutal beating of Rodney King by the LAPD in 1991. For Until, Cave works on an immense scale, creating vast installations that explore the racially motivated deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and plays with the myth of ‘innocent until proved guilty.’ The exhibition doesn’t shy away from wicked problems of gun violence, gun control policy, race and gender in America – while leaving plenty of global and local Australian resonances for the audience to grapple with.

On now until March 3rd, 2019
Carriageworks
245 Wilson Street
Eveleigh, New South Wales

Quilty

When you are recognisable by just your surname (Bowie, Lennon, Einstein, Clinton, Tolstoy…etc etc!) you know you have hit the big time. Quilty is the first major survey exhibition of acclaimed Australian artist Ben Quilty. Quilty is known for masterfully communicating complex social issues through his arresting and highly textured paintings, including explorations of modern masculinity, the experiences of Australian service personnel, and the global refugee crisis. His work is fierce, uncompromising, and always deeply compassionate. For those who can’t get to AGSA, this touring exhibition is also visiting Brisbane and Sydney!

March 2nd to June 2nd, 2019
Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrace
Adelaide, South Australia

June 20th to October 13th, 2019
Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art
Stanley Place
South Brisbane, Queensland

November 9th, 2019 to February, 2020
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road
Sydney, New South Wales

Tracey Moffatt: Body Remembers

Body Remembers is the first Victorian show of Moffatt’s photographic series Body Remembers, and video work Vigil. These works were produced for the 57th Venice Biennale where Moffatt represented Australia. Moffatt is a powerful storyteller, and in Body Remembers, uses personal insights to illustrate broader experiences of colonisation. Vigil splices together footage from the 2010 Christmas Island asylum seeker boat capsizing tragedy with iconic Hollywood imagery. The artists work is captivating, evocative and deftly punctures myths of the Australian experience.

March 23rd to May 19th, 2019
TarraWarra Museum of Art
313 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road
Healesville, Victoria

The National 2019: New Australian Art

The National 2019: New Australian Art is a triple threat! This partnership exhibition draws together the best of contemporary Australian arts across three galleries in NSW (ANGSW, Carriageworks and the MCA). The works span a diverse range of art forms including painting, video, sculpture, installation, drawing and performance. The exhibitions perform as a real-life catalogue of the most exciting practising in contemporary Australian art – dip into a single show, or dive deep into the full three-part lineup. Have a scroll through the artist list and prepare to be (pleasantly) overwhelmed.

March 29th to June 23rd (and AGNSW to July 21st), 2019
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road,
Sydney, New South Wales 

Carriageworks
245 Wilson Street
Eveleigh, New South Wales

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
140 George Street
The Rocks, New South Wales

Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality & Cia Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape

The NGV Winter Masterpiece series this year presents a double billing of Chinese art and culture – contemporary and historical. Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality sees a large scale presentation of one of the worlds most astounding archaeological discoveries. Uncovered in 1974 in Shaanxi province, this army of statues was constructed in the Qin dynasty (221-207 BCE). The show sees eight of the warriors visiting Melbourne, alongside gold, jade and bronze artefacts from the periods between the Zhou and Han dynasties. In conjunction with this historic show, the NGV presents the stunning work of contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. The artist has constructed an installation of over 10,000 suspended porcelain birds, which are arranged to reveal an impression of a calligraphic drawing of Mount Li. This sacred mountain is where the terracotta warriors stand to attention beneath the surface. Not to be missed!

May 24th to October 13th, 2019
National Gallery of Victoria: International
180 St Kilda Road
Melbourne, Victoria

Monet: Impression, Sunrise

This exhibition takes its title from master artist Claude Monet’s work Impression, Soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise – 1872) – after which the impressionism movement is named. The work was painted by Monet in the port town of Le Harve, looking out of a hotel window. The atmospheric painting of a hazy seascape didn’t necessarily capture the ‘view’, but was rather an ‘impression’ of a place and mood. Monet: Impression, Sunrise draws together the work of forty impressionist artists, on loan from the Marmottan, Tate, and Australian and New Zealand collections. The show explores the ambient, light-filled, and transient nature of impressionistic work – consider us impressed.

June 7th to August 18th, 2019
National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place East
Parkes, Australian Capital Territory

Margaret Olley: A Generous Life

One of Australia’s most beloved artist, Margaret Olley is celebrated in the QAGOMA exhibition A Generous Life. The show reflects on the legacy and influence of the iconic artist, particularly on the generous impact Olley’s work and life had on other artists. Her work sings with a vibrant Australian liveliness, where everyday scenes are elevated to moments of radiant beauty.

June 15th to October 13th, 2019
Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art
Stanley Place
South Brisbane, Queensland

Matisse/Picasso

Matisse/Picasso sets two of the art world’s heavyweights together in (beautiful) battle. The exhibition explores the rivalry between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, and how the competitive relationship between the two shaped the course of Modern Art. This is a show of envy, visual poaching, conceptual mining – and the resulting brilliance that emerged from this powerful dynamic. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your artistic rivals as life-long inspiration.

December 13th, 2019 to April 13, 2020
National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place East
Parkes, Australian Capital Territory

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net