Over the last few years, and especially since the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane’s art scene has been rapidly evolving into a bustling and expanding scenario. From the outstanding contemporary collections of its museums to the cutting-edge art on display at the many galleries that populate the vibrant district of Fortitude Valley and Brunswick Street, here are nine of Brisbane’s most interesting spots for lovers of contemporary art.
Opened in 2006 to complement the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) has quickly become one of the largest modern and contemporary art galleries in Australia, its reputation reaching far beyond the country’s borders. With highlights including works by Ai Weiwei, GOMA was inaugurated by the 5th Asia Pacific Triennial and has since offered a diverse range of temporary exhibitions (including Andy Warhol, Picasso and his collection, and Cai Guo-Qiang’s Falling Back to Earth), as well as a widening collection, featuring works by both international and Australian artists like Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama, Martin Creed, Damien Hirst, William Robinson, Fiona Hall, Tracey Moffatt and Rosemary Laing. Located on the south bank of the Brisbane river, GOMA is only a short walk away from the city center. Besides the collections inside, the building itself is a piece of architectural art: designed by Architectus studio, the main pavilion is a ‘light box’ on the river side, whereas on the road side a ‘dark box’ includes the cinematheques where film screenings regularly take place. Add a permanent Children’s Art Centre, a well-stocked art merchandise and book shop, and night openings with live music, and you will have your first step into Brisbane’s contemporary art scene.
Just across the river, next to the city’s Botanical Gardens is the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Art Museum. The QUT Art Museum houses a large collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, decorative arts and works on paper. Its areas of strength include Queensland art, contemporary Australian prints, new technology, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, marking the museum’s strong focus on contemporary Australian art. The collection is also enriched by more than 70 paintings by William Robinson, himself a QUT alumnus. The lowest level of the original University building that now hosts the museum was converted into the light and open space of the gallery in 2000 to showcase the new acquisitions and finest pieces from QUT Art Collection, alongside many regular exhibitions known to maintain the Museum’s commitment to thought-provoking contemporary art.
The Institute of Modern Art (IMA) was one of the first contemporary art venues to appear on the Australian soil. Established in 1975, it has since become part of the vibrant Judith Wright Centre, an integrated creative art space that fosters the development of contemporary arts in Queensland with an eclectic mix of cabaret, circus, dance, music, theater, and contemporary performance. The IMA finds a comfortable home in this lively hub, running a programme of exhibitions and events where stimulating installations and multimedia, moving image and sounds art take the lion’s share. A recent example is Kerry Tribe’s There Will Be______, which combines a short film shot on the location of a mysterious murder in Beverly Hills in the 1950s with dialogues from feature films shot in the same set.
Philip Bacon was still at university when a group of friends, including artists Charles Blackman and Lawrence Daws, urged him to enter the art business and open his own gallery. And so he did, in 1974, adapting a previous tile warehouse in Fortitude Valley to function as new exhibition space, which would thrive over the years establishing Philip Bacon Gallery as one of the leading contemporary art galleries in the country. The building underwent a major redesign in 2001, with Cox Architecture drawing plans for a makeover that turned the place into the light-filled premises that now house some of the best Australian art to date. Backed by substantial stockroom holdings, the exhibition programme is known to attract critical attention from around the nation, displaying works by the most acclaimed Australian artists, such as William Robinson, Margaret Olley, Robert Dickerson and Tim Storrier.
Having displayed innovative pieces of art from the three windows of her gallery on Brunswick Street for eighteen years, Jan Murphy has solidly established herself as one of the leading names on the city’s art scene. Inside the gallery, each of said windows frames an exhibition space where both emerging and established artists have been put in the spotlight and introduced to Brisbane’s audience. Here, a deep commitment to Australian contemporary art has brought together the colorful curves of Kirra Jamison, the powerful portraits of Ben Quilty, the abstracts and animate pictures of Rhys Lee along with many others.
Edwina Corlette was working with Jan Murphy before opening her own space. Also enjoying the thrilling vibe of Brunswick Street, her eponymous gallery is located along the same stretch of road. With a diverse programme of solo and group exhibition, Edwina Corlette Gallery aims to promote a selected group of artists, mostly from Australia and the South Pacific. Painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, installation, digital art: the gallery sees a range of media populating its rooms as the exhibitions roll. Recent ones featured artists like Mark Whalen (better known as Kill Pixie), Marisa Purcell and Bundit Puangthong.
Death Vessels: a collection of curiosities' | Image courtesy of SGAR
Spiro Grace Art Rooms
Offbeat defines this small Spring Hill cottage turned art gallery. And definitely experimental is the fusion of art and design that Spiro Grace Art Rooms (SGAR) presents to its public. Arranged in a rolling series of exhibitions and events, the dynamic scene at SGAR wipes borders between artistic and design media to explore the potential of their integration. Since its opening in 2010, the gallery has been promoting cutting-edge work by emerging local artists. Among recent exhibitions were Daniel Templeman’s installations, conceived to invite the viewer to occupy a space within the artifact, and Gerwyn Davies’s Beast, a flamboyant combination of costume art and photography.
Located in the Brisbane suburb from which it takes its name, Woolloongabba Art Gallery holds a strong focus on contemporary Australasian art. The building is nestled in a Federation period row of shops and comprises three exhibition spaces housing a large selection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, works on paper, installations and photographic works. Woolloongabba holds an extensive collection of Australian indigenous art and strives to support emerging and established home-grown artists. Driven by a strong focus on the multiculturalism that characterizes Australian society, the art displayed in the gallery shows an intent to foster the encounter of different cultures. The gallery has recently displayed David Jones’s Turtleboy and Puppet’s Cabinet of Curiosity, an exhibition that aims to reflect on the hindrances of eradicating prejudice.
After almost a decade of successful activity in Singapore, Chris and Charlie Churcher opened the Brisbane branch of their Redsea Gallery in 2008. The British couple consolidated the name of their Asian gallery by establishing a space where Eastern and Western art and audiences could cross paths. Redsea Brisbane gravitates around the same concept, showcasing a range of works collected from across Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia and Europe. The selection of artworks that has entered the airy rooms of the galley over the years spans various media, from sculpture to painting and illustrations, bringing together artists like Zhong Chen, Val and Kerrie Hess.