Sydney’s Top Contemporary Art Galleries: Emerging and Established
Sydney is home to a booming artistic landscape that attracts iconic names from the international art world, and also supports and nurtures local talent. With a diverse range of art destinations, we investigate ten Sydney art galleries that stand out for their artistic excellence, commitment to contemporary movements and dedication to emerging practitioners.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Described as ‘one of the most beautiful art museums in the world’, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a colossal destination in Sydney’s artistic canvas. The gallery first opened in 1871 and today its permanent collection and changing exhibitions feature works by a plethora of prestigious Australian and international figures. The artworks displayed come from a diverse range of contexts, including artistic masterpieces from colonial times, cutting edge contemporary pieces and distinguished Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
Set in a spectacular building located on the edge of Sydney Harbour, the MCA is an institution dedicated to all aspects of contemporary art, including exhibition, collection, interpretation and education. The museum and gallery spaces have expanded since its opening in 1991, and today visitors can enjoy a whole floor of the MCA’s permanent collection in addition to another two floors of gallery exhibition areas. The MCA’s calendar is filled with dynamic exhibitions, events and educational programmes.
Founded by Kerr and Judith Neilson, The White Rabbit Collection is celebrated as one of the most significant collections of contemporary Chinese art in the world. The collection’s history dates back to the 1990s and was inspired by the artistic and creative boom China experienced in the wake of the ‘Reform and Opening Up’ movement. Today the collection is so large that only a fraction of it can be exhibited at one time across the four floors of exhibition space. To manage this inspiring amount of art, the gallery undertakes entire rehangs twice every year.
Australian Centre of Photography (ACP)
Dedicated to the art of photography, the ACP was founded in 1973 and has grown throughout the years to become an influential and multifaceted organisation. The ACP runs exhibitions, educational programmes, workshops, tours and produces publications, with each element aiming to connect professionals and emerging practitioners, as well as enlightening the Australian public on photography. Truly an institution of significance, the gallery is proud to have been identified as ‘one of the leadership organisations in Australian contemporary visual culture’.
CarriageWorks is a unique cultural centre set in the old Eveleigh Rail Yards. This large and distinct architecture allows the venue to house incredible artistic presentations, including theatre, music, dance and an inspiring range of visual art exhibitions. One of the centre’s major focuses is helping artists develop their work through showings, residencies and funded programmes, and the diverse spectrum of spaces available allows this goal to be fully realised. The venue is also home to a number of resident companies, including Anna Schwartz Gallery, Erth, Force Majeure, Performance Space, Playwriting Australia, Stalker & Marrugeku and Version 1.0. Truly a multi-disciplinary venue, CarriageWorks’ list of events and exhibitions is always full of surprises and new discoveries.
Aboriginal Art Galleries
Aboriginal Art Galleries is the combination of a number of galleries that joined together as one organisation, and today it holds one of the most significant collections of Aboriginal art and artefacts in Sydney. The organisation exhibits in three beautiful locations in Sydney – Opera Quays, The Rocks and the Queen Victoria Building – and the items offered range from authentic Aboriginal artworks and artefacts of wood, glass, crafts and ceramics, as well as items such as didgeridoos. Passionate about supporting the Aboriginal art scene, the organisation has an open code of ethics section on their website, and the artworks sold are sourced from various Aboriginal communities in the country.
Aboriginal Art Galleries, 1300 385 862
Opera Quays Gallery, Shop 13, 2 East Circular Quay, Opera Quays, Sydney, NSW 2000
The Rocks Gallery, Bay 5, 1-5 Hickson Rd., corner of George St. The Rocks, NSW 2000
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
Established in 1982, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is an iconic gallery in Sydney that focuses on practitioners from the Asia-Pacific region. Roslyn Oxley9 is proud to have had nine of its artists represent Australia at the Venice Biennale, justifying its status as one of the leading galleries in the country. The gallery is also committed to emerging artists, and aims to support younger practitioners in its programme, allowing nurturing connections to be made between local artists and the international art industry.
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, +61 2 9331 1919, 8 Soudan Lane, Paddington NSW 2021 Sydney Australia
Object is praised as Australia’s leading centre for design, and the organisation is proud of its influence on the booming design culture in the country. The organisation’s event and exhibition schedule features hundreds of designers’ works each year, and Object also organises education workshops and programmes to support young practitioners. In addition to this, Object publishes its own magazine and is also the creator of the Audio Design Museum, audio tours that highlight the city itself as a design museum.
Object, +61 2 9361 4511, St. Margarets, 417 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF)
SCAF is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to give wider exposure to practitioners from Australia, the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The gallery consists of four distinct areas – a large exhibition area, a mini ‘out-site’ space, a theatre annexe and a Zen garden – offering a versatile atmosphere for both visitors and exhibiting artists, and enabling a wide spectrum of art media to be explored. The gallery also organises a number of talks, publications, forums, workshops and functions, allowing stronger connections to be made between the art industry and the public.
Chalk Horse is a contemporary art gallery that focuses on both Australian and international artists, with a commitment to helping local artists to gain exposure both in Australia and overseas. On top of the exhibitions they organise, the gallery also documents and publishes work by artists, curators and writers, as well as organises events that range from experimental music and sound nights to art talks and film screenings.
A self proclaimed ‘Artist-Run-Initiative hub’, Firstdraft is a gallery and arts organisation that focuses on the whole art process, including production, dissemination and discussion. The organisation runs its own artist studio complex, The Depot, where resident practitioners can work on projects in year long arrangements. Presenting these works, as well as other contemporary art shows, Firstdraft’s gallery venue houses multiple exhibition spaces. Firstdraft also organises programmes for writers and curators, as well as other events that promote the industry and support emerging practitioners.
By Andrew Kingsford-Smith