A site of stunning natural beauty, Hobart is the waterfront capital of Tasmania. Renowned for its spectacular food, bustling city bars, and a range of outdoor events utilizing the natural landmarks – from Battery Point to Mount Wellington – Hobart is the new creative hot spot. We take a look at ten of the best contemporary art galleries in the state capital, offering culture against the backdrop of unrivaled Australasian landscape.
The Bett Gallery was founded by the late Dick Bett, who emigrated over the Tasman Sea from Wellington to found the eponymous facility in 1985. He took it upon himself to establish his commercial venture as a champion of contemporary artwork. For him, the business minded side of the scene was very much a two way street, offering artists the chance to earn a wage from their work and thus evolve. He explained that his job was to “Identify talent, nurture talent; identify clients, nurture clients; build artistic practice, build the quality of the collector … the system gets better … it’s very achievable.” The legacy Bett left behind in Hobart is one of a successful gallery with a stable contingent of productive artists.
Bett Gallery, 369 Elizabeth St, North Hobart, Australia, +61 3 6231 6511
Colville Street Art Gallery
The work displayed inside Colville Street Art Gallery, perched atop Battery Point, is in direct competition with the exemplary view of the river and marina. Fortunately, the gallery has curated an excellent crop of Tasmanian artists whose works boldly pull the punters away from the beguiling waterfront views. The creations of these Tasmanian artists respond to the landscape and populace around them in a variety of forms and styles, offering wonderful interpretations of everyday Tasmanian life. Much of the work inside Colville is crafted by award-winning sculptors and painters, gathering increasing attention for Tasmanian artists on the world stage.
Colville Street Art Gallery, 91 Salamanca Pl, Hobart, Australia, +61 3 6224 4088
Contemporary Art Tasmania
Contemporary Art Tasmania (CAT) has been operating under multiple names for over 20 years, becoming the premier public platform for contemporary and experimental art in the state. As the organization has evolved, it has become an incorporated Australian public company with a Board of Management that can invite new artists to partake in a structure and programme that aids their development. CAT is an exciting institution on the local arts scene, offering mentoring, educational opportunities and gallery space in which visitors can experience cutting edge exhibitions of up-and-coming visual artists.
Contemporary Art Tasmania, 27 Tasma Street, North Hobart, Australia, +61 3 6231 0445
Museum of Old and New Art
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is the jewel in Tasmania’s contemporary art crown, the kind of magnificent gallery which confirms the thriving cultural scene and demands attention from the European and broader international community. David Walsh, the millionaire benefactor of the gallery, has described his wish for MONA to be a “subversive adult Disneyland.” Given the gallery’s eclectic collection and series of public art performances and live music festivals, this space looks set to become just that. MONA seeks to redefine what a cultural venue can be, adhering to the tastes and expectations of the local population.
MONA, 655 Main Road, Berriedale, Australia, +61 3 6277 9900
Detached is nestled within a colonial-era church two blocks from the waterfront on Creswell’s Row. Indeed, the gallery is situated within the quadrangle of streets that Governor Lachlan Macquarie first laid out when he visited the pioneering town in 1811. Its aging interior is imbued with the cumulative weight of the city’s tumultuous history. In many ways, this gives it the ideal ambiance for a contemporary exhibition space, where resident artists can comment upon the violence of the island’s colonial past or announce a manifesto for the city’s liberal future. A great example of the latter, from 2009, was Brook Andrew’s 8 Months Of War – a collaboratively curated sculptural map of recent conflicts.
Detached, 7 Campbell St, Hobart, Australia, +61 3 6234 4111
Constance ARI is the only artist run initiative in the city, offering gallery and studio space. Constance ARI provides artists with a flexible artistic platform on which to experiment with their work and engage with an audience in a low-key space. The boundary between active creative work and exhibition space is non-existent, with Constance offering the community an unrestricted opportunity to engage with the art. The gallery is uniquely open-minded when it comes to helping their resident artists realize their vision. Testament to this commitment was displayed recently when the ARI allowed artist Catherine Woo to redirect the building’s guttering into the studio, infusing an unusual sense of life and veracity into her Painting with Weather exhibition.
Constance ARI, Bank Arcade Liverpool St, Hobart, Australia, +61 437 196 990
The Despard Gallery, located on Hobart’s lingering esplanade, is a pleasurable showcase of contemporary fine arts with constantly changing exhibitions of local artists. The quality of work on display is exceptional and the sparse but warm interior allows the canvases to take center stage. The aspect that will potentially bring the greatest delight to visitors is the sight of the stockroom, replete with evocative and curious pieces that can be brought back home.
Despard Gallery, 15 Castray Esplanade, Tasmania, Australia +61 3 6223 8266
The Plimsoll Gallery emerged in 1986 following the amalgamation of the School of Art and the state’s University of Tasmania. Due to these educational links, the gallery provides students with the opportunity to showcase their original work, establishing the space as an integral fixture at the forefront of Hobart’s contemporary art scene. The venue sits just above the city’s bustling waterfront and its exhibitions welcome a mix of local, national and international artists. Being intertwined with the University, the walls of the gallery often give coverage to the raw and challenging graduate and post-graduate work coming out of Australia, most of it rooted in Tasmanian culture and all of it worthy of wider critical acclaim.
The Plimsoll Gallery, Hunter St, Hobart, Australia, +61 3 6226 4300
Salamanca Arts Centre
Salamanca Arts Centre is the popular, but never populist, hub of Tasmanian arts, proclaiming itself to be the “engine room for art-making and presentation.” The center plays host to many of the state’s eminent performance, literary and artistic organizations. Back in the 1890s, when the buildings were first constructed, they housed the new fuel for economic and civic growth – the jam and preserve factories which arrived after the inglorious, failing industries on the Old Wharf. The Center houses a number of artists in studios, ranging from potters to painters, as well as curating major exhibitions of local and international artists.
Salamanca Arts Centre, 77 Salamanca Pl, Hobart, Australia, +61 3 6234 8414
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) is a multifaceted space which seeks to investigate and encapsulate the essence of the region’s culture and character. The TMAG is Australia’s second oldest museum and inside the precinct is Tasmania’s oldest surviving public building, the Commissariat Store constructed in 1808. As would be expected of a facility that displays quintessential Tasmanian creations, there is a herbarium alongside the museum and gallery which informs visitors of the island’s natural heritage. From fine arts to contemporary installations, TMAG has a near comprehensive range of styles and disciplines that respond to the city’s aboriginal and colonial past, as well as referencing the deeply ingrained self-sufficient attitudes that pervade the region.
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Dunn Pl, Hobart, Australia, +61 3 6211 4134