10 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2021!

After a year of putting gallery-going on hold, we are more than ready to get back into the art-viewing saddle!

From an immersive Mirka Mora survey, to a record-breaking retrospective of Swedish visionary Hilma af Klint’s lost artworks fresh from the Guggenheim in New York, these are the incredible exhibitions happening around the country this year that we are just ITCHING to see. Take a look!

Sasha Gattermayr

Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future at the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York. Photo – David Heald.

Left: The Ten Largest, Group IV, No. 3, Youth by Hilma af Klint, 1907. Right: Group IX/UW, The Dove No.2 by Hilma af Klint 1915.

Sasha Gattermayr
12th of February 2021

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings
12th June – 19th September 2021
Art Gallery of New South Wales

You might recognise the pastel tones and soft, mystical forms of Swedish visionary Hilma af Klint. The 2019 exhibition of her newly discovered paintings at New York’s Guggenheim drew record-breaking crowds, and was broadcast all over Instagram. But nothing substitutes for the real thing!

The 100 works that comprise The Secret Paintings will premiere in the Asia Pacific at the Art Gallery of New South Wales this winter, which will be the first major survey of the experimental artist’s work in the region. The existence of the enormous, ambitious canvases was not known until recently when they found in storage after being kept there for the last few decades… unbeknownst to the art world!

Now brought to light, the dazzling exhibition represents an outpouring of appreciation for the trailblazing modernist artist. Don’t miss this international art sensation!

Friend Under the Tree‘ by Mirka Mora.

14th February – 19th December 2021
Jewish Museum of Australia, Victoria

It’s no secret we’re HUGE Mirka Mora fans, but this is big… even for us! MIRKA is the most expansive survey of the late, great artist’s work and dives deep into her rich personal history as well as her vibrant creative oeuvre.

After pushing back the opening due to last year’s restrictions, the Jewish Museum of Australia will transform into a ‘Mirka-world’ on Valentine’s Day, featuring more than 200 unseen pieces from the Mora family home and Mirka’s studio and archives. These will be featured alongside pieces from Heide’s permanent collection to create a vivid account of her life as a Holocaust refugee in Australia.

Visitors will be guided through the exhibition of artworks and personal effects by an audio soundscape of stories and memories – narrated by Mirka herself! This will be a truly immersive show of a Melbourne icon.

Left: The Royal Tour (Self Portrait 1), 2020. Right: The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth), 2020.

The Royal Tour (Charles, Vincent and Elizabeth), 2020.

Vincent Namatjira
8th – 25th September, 2021
This Is No Fantasy

2020 was Vincent Namatjira’s year. The artist received an Order of Australia in June, and then took out the prestigious Archibald Prize a few months later, becoming the first Indigenous artist to win the country’s most prestigious portrait prize. AND he released a book in December!

Originally from Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Northern Territory (125km South West of Alice Springs), Vincent identifies as Western Aranda. Today, he is based at Iwantja Arts in the remote community of Indulkana in South Australia’s APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) lands.

Vincent’s bold, unique paintings position notable historical figures (often political leaders or members of the British monarchy) in the vivid Australian desert, or himself in diplomatic scenes between international heads of states. His subversive style questions the nature of history and politics we understand today.

This Is No Fantasy gallery represents the of-the-moment artist and will host an exhibition of his recent works later this year. Details are yet to be finalised but mark the date in your diary, it’s going to be excellent!

Left: Cloud formations by Cecilie Bendixen, 2020 and Capitolviscera appliances mural by Jim Shaw, 2011. Photo – Tom Ross. Right: C=O=D=A by Cerith Wyn Evans, 2019–20. Photo – Tom Ross.

Triennial 2020
December 2020 – April 18th, 2021
National Gallery Victoria

Given this all-encompassing contemporary showcase only happens once every three years, its pretty much the defintion of ‘unmissable’.

With pieces scattered throughout the NGV’s permanent collection, the Triennial displays the work of over 100 contemporary designers and artists across many mediums and creative disciplines. From enormous digital landscapes by Refik Anadol to colourful installations by interior designer Danielle Brustman and an enormous iridescent Jeff Koons sculpture, the exhibition celebrates the diversity and  of contemporary creatives around the world.

And to really sweeten the deal, entry is free! Make sure to book ahead.

The Lume at MCEC presenting Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

The Lume
Permanent installation – opening Autumn 2021 (stay tuned!)
Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre

Digital art isn’t usually our arena, but an epic-scale digital rendering of classic masterpieces that deposit you INSIDE the painting? Sign us up! The Lume is an immersive art experience that casts projections around a large observation room, enveloping the roaming visitor in the world of a painting.

Opening with the masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh, visitors enter the world of the Dutch master via a symphony of light, colours, sound and even smells. The moving imagery guides viewers through the Netherlands, Paris and the French countryside, allowing them to visit the locations of the artist’s most famous scenes before arriving at the paintings themselves. The multi-sensory experience gives a sense of Van Gogh’s own thoughts, feelings, emotions and surroundings as he painted.

If quiet, white galleries is not your ideal art-viewing environment, The Lume is for you. It’s like the planetarium of art galleries!

Improvisation No III (Munich) by Erica McGilchrist, 1961.

House of Ideas: Modern Women
1st May – 31st October, 2021
Heide Museum of Modern Art

One of the best things about Heide is the history of the grounds itself, the bedrock of the Australian modernist art movement. House of Ideas: Modern Women celebrates the creative women connected to the iconic site.

From writers to artists, poets and progressive thinkers, these visionary female creatives have been largely forgotten by history, though making just as significant contributions to the bohemian movement as their male counterparts. The exhibition includes the work of Sunday Reed, Cynthia Reed Nolan, Barbara Blackman, Mary Boyd, Joy Hester, Mirka Mora and more to illustrate the central role these women played in creating the cultural and intellectual environment we understand today.

Left: Assemblage of the Fragmented Landscape by Mehwish Iqbal, 2020. Right: Fragile Ecologies by Lauren Berkowitz, 2018.

The National 2021: New Australian Art

The National is a six-year long partnership between three key galleries in New South Wales: the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Carriageworks and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. This year’s show is the last in a series of three biennial exhibitions, with works spread out across all three locations.

The National: 2021 is a sprawling survey of contemporary Australian art, bringing together artwork from artists of different generations and cultural backgrounds around the country. Thirty-nine artists, collectives and collaboratives present their responses to present-day Australia through a chosen medium, from sculpture to mural to bark painting.

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
26 March– 22 August 2021

26th March – 20th June, 2021

Art Gallery of New South Wales
26th March – 5th September 2021

The 2020 finalists on display. Photo – Charlie Bliss.

National Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA)
Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory

The Telstra National Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Art Awards is a milestone event in the art calendar every year, and the 37th iteration will be no different!

The awards program and accompanying exhibition unites emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory in Darwin. The diversity of media displayed among the finalists in the last few years represents the richness of the contemporary art practices among leading Indigenous artists, and the fresh perspectives they bring to the artistic fabric of contemporary Australia. This show is knock-out every year.

Dates are yet to be finalised for this year’s program, but fingers crossed for an IRL ceremony and exhibition!

Left: ‘Sunflowers’  by Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Right: ‘Hillside in Provence’ by Paul Cézanne, c1890–92.

‘Four scenes from the early life of Saint Zenobius‘ by Sandro Botticelli, c1500.

Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London
5 March – 14 June 2021
National Gallery of Australia

Hold onto your hats, there’s a masterpiece blockbuster on its way to Australia!

Spanning five centuries and seven key artistic periods, Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London brings together 60 paintings by big time European heavyweights including Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velázquez, Goya, Turner, Renoir, Cézanne and Gauguin. These titans bookend Western European art history, starting with the Italian Renaissance and ending with the birth of modern art, catching the Dutch Golden Age, 17th-century Spanish movement and British portraiture in between.

This showstopper is presented in partnership with the National Gallery, London and is exclusive to the NGA.

The Green Room (Omega Project) by RONE, 2017. Set dressing by interior stylist Carly Spooner.

RONE in Geelong
27th February – 16th May, 2021
Geelong Gallery

Rone is a longtime favourite in the TDF office, so just try and stop us from getting down to Geelong to see this!

From stencil works to archival photographs of his signature street murals and digital recreations of his installations, this is the first comprehensive solo survey of the artist’s iconic work. The exhibition culminates in a site-specific piece where one of the gallery’s rooms has been completely transformed into a RONE-style space.

The new multimedia commission will respond to the architecture and history of the building, reforming the grand reception area into a decayed and derelict room – reminiscent of his installations at the abandoned Burnham Beeches building in 2019. It will also contain a new soundtrack by composer Nick Batterham.

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