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12 Unmissable Exhibitions To Put In Your Diary For 2022


After staring at the art on our own walls for too long, we’re ready to indulge in some gallery visits!

From the immersive and beguiling work of Yayoi Kusama, to the thought-provoking presentations in the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, these are this year’s must-see exhibitions across Australia.

28th January, 2022

The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at Queensland Art Gallery. Front: Suggoo Pennise (detail, installation view) by Grace Lillian Lee and Ken Thaiday Snr / Meriam Mir people. Back: Tepo (mats) by Bajau Sama Dilaut Weavers. Photo – Chloë Callistemon for QAGOMA.

The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at Queensland Art Gallery.

Left: Installation view of Air Canoe, a project for APT10 from the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Right: Syagini Ratna Wulan, Parhelion (installation view) 2021.

Photo – Joe Ruckli for QAGOMA

Bea Taylor
Friday 28th January 2022

The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art
Until 25 April 2022
Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art

The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT10) is an epic showcase of contemporary artwork from across the Asia Pacific region. This year, it brings together 69 different projects, from more than 150 individuals from 30 countries. Spanning both Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane, the Triennial comprises everything from large-scale installations and immersive multimedia artworks, alongside sculpture, textiles, paintings, photography and video.

Considering this exhibition is in its landmark 10th edition, it automatically qualifies as ‘unmissable’!


Carolina Caycedo, Yuma, or the Land of Friends, 2014. Installation view at the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Museen Dahlen (2014), Berlin.

Left: Caio Reisewitz, Ituporanga, 2010. Installation view at Sesc Belenzinho (2010), São Paolo. Photograph – Caio Reisewitz.

Right: Badger Bates, Barka the Forgotten River and the Desecration of the Menindee Lakes, 2018. Courtesy the artist. Photo – Alex Rosenblum.

23rd Biennale of Sydney
12 March  – 13 June 2022
Various locations, NSW

One of Australia’s largest contemporary art events hits our shores again this year; the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, titled rīvus

The event is articulated around a series of conceptual wetlands, situated along waterways of the Gadigal and Barramattagal peoples. These imagined ecosystems will be populated  by artworks, experiments, activisms and research. Together, these exhibitions will form a meandering collective of interrelated ideas including river horror, creek futurism, Indigenous science, hydrofeminism, water healing, spirit streams, fish philosophy and sustainable methods of co-existence.

These artworks and projects will span numerous sites, including; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Barangaroo including The Cutaway, Circular Quay, Information + Cultural Exchange, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, National Art School in partnership with Artspace, The Rocks and Walsh Bay Arts Precinct including Pier 2/3. 

The Curatorium (made up of local curators Paschal Daantos Berry, Anna Davis, Hannah Donnelly and Talia Linz with international Artistic Director José Roca) encourage visitors to flow between the locations and experiences, all of which are accessible by walking, biking, wheelchair and other mobility devices, and via public transport.

Installation view of ‘Matisse: Life & Spirit Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris’ exhibition, on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photo – Mim Stirling for AGNSW.

Matisse: Life & Spirit
Until 13 March 2022
Art Gallery of New South Wales

You might remember this one from our 2020 list. Yep, two years on and we’re counting ourselves lucky that this incredible exhibition has stuck around for us to FINALLY check it out. 

Matisse: Life & Spirit, masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou is an (you guessed it) unmissable exhibition showcasing over 100 works from the French Master, Henri Matisse. It’s the greatest single exhibition of Matisse masterworks ever to be seen in Sydney (see, unmissable).

Installation view of The Spirits of the Pumpkins Decended into the Heavens by Yayoi Kusama, 2017. Photo – courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

1 April 2022 – March 2023
Art Gallery of South Australia

If there’s one thing you don’t want to miss, it’s the ‘world’s most popular artist’. We are, of course, talking about Yayoi Kusama. Best known for her immersive and playful polka-dot and mirror installations, Yayoi successfully engages with expansive space and recurring motifs to create sensory experiences that hint at the infinite. 

From April 1 the Art Gallery of South Australia presents THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKINS DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS, an installation comprising a vibrant yellow room overrun with black polka dots of various sizes. The stunning combination of dots, mirrors and pumpkins (that’s right, pumpkins!) create an optical illusion that will dazzle, and must be experienced to be believed!

Installation view of Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrikala from 17 December 2021 to 25 April 2022 at NGV International, Melbourne.   Photo – Tom Ross .

Installation view of Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrikala from 17 December 2021 to 25 April 2022 at NGV International, Melbourne.  Photo – Tom Ross .

Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrkala
Until 25 April 2022
National Gallery of Victoria 

In this exhibition, the NGV celebrates its own extraordinary collection of work by Yolŋu women artists from the Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre (Buku), in North-East Arnhem Land. This collection of important works has been slowly acquired by the NGV over two decades. 

Buku is the Indigenous community-run art centre located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community, approximately 700 kilometres east of Darwin. According to Buku, under Yolŋu Law the ‘Land’ extends to include sea, and both land and sea are connected in a single cycle of life. This understanding of the ‘Land’ is woven in the Yolŋu’s songs, sacred designs and art, the latter masterfully demonstrated on the unique medium of bark.

Left: Nicole Foreshew, Wiradjuri people, study for work in progress, 2021.

Right: Dr Matilda House and Paul Girrawah House, Ngambri/Ngunnawal peoples, with scar tree, Kamberri/Canberra, 2021.

4th National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony
23 March – 31 July 2022
National Gallery of Australia 

In its fourth iteration, the National Indigenous Art Triennial presents Ceremony; a showcase of how the practice of ceremony is at the nexus of Country, culture and community. 

Curated by the NGA’s Senior Curator-At-Large and Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman Hetti Perkins, this immersive exhibition and program of events promises to challenge and unsettle; animate and heal. Expect to see a collective and collaborative curation of visual art, film, music, theatre, spoken word, dance and poetry.

Installation view: Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2021. Photo – Andrew Curtis.

Heather B. Swann: Leda and the Swan. Installation view, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2021

Photo – Andrew Curtis.

Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider 
Until 6 March 2022
TarraWarra Museum of Art

Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider  brings together more than 100 works by one of Australia’s leading artists of the 20th Century, Sidney Nolan. 

This collection showcases the artist’s work from the period of 1955 – 1966, during which he grappled with the subject of the Trojan War, its parallels with the Gallipoli campaign, and its origins in the myth of Leda and the Swan. The exhibition will be the first of Nolan’s to show these works in the context of the development of the artist’s vision of the tragedy of warfare from his early works on Hydra (1955-56), through to his Leda and Swan series (1958-60) and culminating in his large-scale interpretations of Greek mythology (1966). 

Nolan’s works, which are rich in colour and striking in their composition, are notable also for their application of unusual mediums.

Installation view in Part Two of Know My Name: Australian women artists 1900 to now, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2021.

Left Artwork: Margel Hinder, Revolving construction. 

Right Artwork: Diena Georgetti, SUPERSTUDIO, 2015-2017, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Photo – courtesy of the NGA.

Left to right:

Margaret Preston, Pink jug, 1925

Lily Sandover Kngwarray, Alyawarr people, Untitled, 1999.

Elisabeth Cummings, The Green Mango B and B, 2006.

Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, Part Two
Until 26 July 2022
National Gallery of Australia 

If you’ve already seen Part One of this exhibition, you’ll know why Part Two is an unmissable sequel. 

Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now showcases pieces made by artists who identify as women. Drawn from the National Gallery’s own collection as well as loans from across Australia, visitors can expect to see a new story of Australian art unfold. 

This exhibition proposes alternative histories, challenges stereotypes and highlights the stories and achievements of all women artists.

Installation view of Telstra NATSIAA 2021. Photo – Mark Sherwood, Courtesy of MAGNT.

Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA)
Until 6th February 2022
Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory

There’s only just over a week left to view the incredible pieces on show at the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory (MAGNT) in Darwin by emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

However, if you can’t visit it in person, fear not, step inside the virtual gallery and soak up the art from the comfort of your own home. 

Installation view of Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto. Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto
4 December 2021 – 25 April 2022
National Gallery of Victoria in partnership with the Palais Galliera

Don your LBD, spritz your No. 5 and head to the NGV to check out this must-see exhibition on the renowned French Couturiere, Gabrielle Chanel. 

With more than 230 garments, accessories and jewellery pieces drawn from the rich Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de CHANEL in Paris, complemented by important loans from major public museums and private collections, Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto is a feast for the eyes. And, as if this wasn’t enough to have you heading out the door already, you can peruse the exhibition with the dulcet tones of Tilda Swinton in your ear, who has exclusively narrated the audio guide for the NGV. 

See you there!

Untitled Botany Bay by Dennis Golding (Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay). Photo – Jack Cook.

Adelaide Biennal of Australian Art: Free/State
4 March – 5 June 2022
Art Gallery of South Australia

In its 31st rendition, the Adelaide Biennal of Australian Art presents Free/State; an exhibition of Australian artists who are fearless, provocateurs, vanguards and outsiders alike. You can expect to see pieces that challenge history and art forms, and offer reflections on an era of multi-faceted global upheaval. 

Curator Sebastian Goldspink says, “each of these artists is emblematic of the many divergent facets of contemporary Australian art. Diversity is embraced and celebrated in Free/State and the exhibition is reflective of a nation still in the throes of grappling with its past and defining its future.” 

Left: Dean Cross Self Portrait as Sidney Nolan’s Self Portrait 1943 2021. Image courtesy of the artist and Yavuz Gallery Sydney & Singapore.

Right: Sidney Nolan, Death of Captain Fraser , 1948.

Sidney Nolan: Search For Paradise
19 February – 12 June 2022
Heide Museum of Modern Art

Correct, you’re seeing double, there are two Sidney Nolan exhibitions in Melbourne this year, and we’re all the richer for it. 

The Heide Museum of Modern Art is presenting two exhibitions this February, originally intended to coincide with the museum’s 40th anniversary in late 2021; a major thematic retrospective of renowned Australian modernist artist Sidney Nolan, plus a new work by Dean Cross, titled Sometimes I Miss The Applause, in response to Nolan. 

Heide Museum of Modern Art artistic director Lesley Harding explains, “Together they celebrate our rich history as a site of Australian modernity while simultaneously looking ahead to a bright future.”

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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.

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