The Real Art Of Australia

The Daily Telegraph, September 17, 2013

A major new exhibition dedicated to the art of Australia opens soon at the Royal Academy )( ; September 21 to December 8). The display brings together around 180 paintings, photographs and prints covering two centuries of work, with the broad theme of landscapes.

Here, we round up some of the real art experiences – from ancient indigenous rock art, to cutting edge contemporary galleries – visitors can have in Australia.

Australia is known for its ancient rock art

Art of the Kimberley

Have a unique cultural experience at a remote all-inclusive Faraway Bay camp led by Aboriginal elder and artist Ju Ju ‘Buriwee’ Wilson, as well as internationally-renowned archaeologist Lee Scott-Virtue. Retreat includes guided field trips to rock art sites, not usually accessible to the general public, and bush walks to collect art materials from the savannah landscape.

Photographic safaris across the Kimberley

Learn the art of landscape photography in the Kimberley region with a professional photographer. Experiences start from one-day tours of tropical Broome, where the outback meets the ocean, to 10-day safaris along the Gibb River Road with its waterfalls, cattle stations and the surreal sandstone beehives of the Bungle Bungle range. There are also trips to the aboriginal communities and red cliffs of Cape Leveque to capture the natural phenomenon known as the ‘Staircase to the Moon,’ made by the moon’s reflection on the sandflats during low tides.

From £160/$275 per person for one day to £3,500/$5,880 for a 10-day safari fully inclusive of tuition and activities, camping equipment, meals, and a scenic helicopter flight.

Kimberley art centres

To the Mowanjum people in the West Kimberley, the Wandjina is the supreme spirit being, so powerful he has no mouth as he does not need to speak. They have been painting Wandjina figures in rock art sites for thousands of years. Experience the vitality of the Wandjina tradition and learn the stories that have been passed on for more than 100 centuries at the Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre near Derby.

Designed to look like a giant Wandjina spirit from the air, it features an art gallery, artist's studio where techniques are still based on the cave painting traditions, museum and theatre which educates audiences about the culture of the Mowanjum people. Famous fans include model and actress Jerry Hall, who has bought a number of paintings.

Mowanjum is one of four significant art centres across the Kimberley which can be visited on a driving holiday from Broome to Kununurra. See also and .

Orion Cruises also has expeditions to the Kimberley (see )

See Gormley’s work in Lake Ballard

The British sculptor Antony Gormley has also created a striking work in the goldfields of Western Australia. On the salt plains of Lake Ballard, 51 silhouette sculptures – life-sized steel casts of people from the nearby town of Menzies – appear ghostlike on the horizon, shimmering in the heat. It was created in 2003 as part of the Perth International Arts Festival (see below).

See them on the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, a self-drive tour of WA’s Goldfields.

Book return flights to Perth through Qatar Airways ( ; 0844 846 8380) departing London or Manchester.


MONA, Hobart

Tasmania's £44m ($75m) subterranean Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is fast becoming a must-see destination. It is the largest private museum in Australia, MONA, and rivals New York’s edgiest galleries. The man behind it all is multi-millionaire and mathematician, David Walsh.

Peter Hughes wrote the following: “I can't decide if it is a small boy jumping up and down shouting "Bum, willy, belly button", or a gallery that is seriously questioning the nature of art. Probably both.”

Read more

Tasmania, Australia: Wild life and art on the 'afterthought' island

Note: The museum holds its own festival each year. See for more information.


While in Hobart, art enthusiasts can stay at the Henry Jones Art Hotel – boutique, luxury accommodation on Hobart’s waterfront and Australia’s first dedicated art hotel. The site in which it is located dates back to 1804 and the former jam factory has been transformed into an enthralling first class hotel designed by award-winning architects, Morris-Nunn & Associates.

Read the full review here

Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

According to the Telegraph's art critic Richard Dorment: "Sited on one of the most desirable pieces of land in Australia, the modernist building was designed by the local architect Sam Marshall, and its elegance, restraint, and determination to serve the art – not the architect’s ego – have met with universal acclaim. Seven weeks after its opening in March 2012, more than a quarter of a million visitors had been through its doors. With the new space available to her, the museum’s dynamic director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor can now show works by world-class Australian artists such as Shaun Gladwell and Fiona Hall, alongside young and emerging film-makers and installation and performance artists. "

National Gallery of Victoria

According to Telegraph art critic Richard Dorment: "The city’s National Gallery of Victoria is far and away the most important museum collection in the country. No other Autralian city has holdings of Old Master and non-European art to touch it. It also has the best selection of Impressionist pictures, and outstanding Asian and Oceanic art."

Art Gallery of New South Wales

According to Richard Dorment, "it is essential to see the MCA in tandem with the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a splendid neoclassical structure surrounded by parkland overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay."

Its collections include British 18th- and 19th-century Old Masters, from Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough to Leighton, Rossetti and Burne-Jones, and one of the finest collections of blue-chip modern and contemporary art in Australia.

The Waltzing Matilda Centre and Outback Regional Gallery, Winton, Queensland

Discover the history of Australia’s Outback in the town of Winton in Queensland - known as the birthplace of the song ‘Waltzing Matilda’. The Waltzing Matilda Centre takes people on a journey through Australia’s history and culture – from theatre performances to interactive displays, while the gallery showcases the works of local and regional artists depicting the Outback.

Wine and art in Margaret River

One of Margaret River’s oldest wineries, Vasse Felix produces some of the area’s best chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons but is also known for its art, with more than 4,000 registered artworks. Outside, an art trail takes you around the property to view sculptures by local artists, while inside an art gallery holds work by artists such as Sidney Nolan and John Olsen. .

Margaret RIver is known for more than just its wineries Events and festivals

Perth International Art Festival

In the late Australian summer Perth’s beaches and streets are transformed into art galleries and theatres. The Perth International Arts Festival offers three weeks of theatre, music, film, art and literature. This year’s event included premieres and performances from The Berliner Ensemble, Philip Glass, Margaret Atwood and Ai Weiwei.

See also the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, which transforms Perth’s popular Cottesloe Beach into an outdoor art gallery for 19 days every March.

Largest ever indigenous festival

Sydney will host the largest, annual, national indigenous arts and cultural festival in Australia’s history this year at an event called Corroboree, which will show in Sydney for the next three years (November 14 to 24).

The festival is set to include workshops, tours, exhibitions and performances, across film, music, dance, literature, art, fashion and design.


Southern Art and Craft Trail

Showcasing artistic talent along Western Australia’s south coast, over 62 different venues between the area’s beachside towns and towering forests hold free exhibitions, open studios, workshops, demonstrations and talks. The public displays include textiles, sculpture, jewellery and photography. September 28 to October 13;

Sorrento Portsea Artists Trail, Victoria

Discover how the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria inspired some notable Australian artists. The trail features 14 paintings (more paintings are proposed), and follows a scenic coastal walking route taking in both sides of the Peninsula including stands at Sorrento Pier, Point King, Sorrento Ocean Beach, and St Pauls’ Beach.

Art of Nature Tour, Kangaroo Island, SA

More than 10 per cent of the residents of Kangaroo Island - off the coast of South Australia - play an active part its many galleries, studios and craft outlets. You can take an Art of Nature Tour to see Kangaroo Island’s creative side.

Guided art tours around Uluru, Northern Territory

There are many guided walking tours that explore the ancient rock art around the base of Uluru. See for more details.

Read more

Read Alastair Sooke’s review of the Royal Academy exhibition

The art of Australia: coast to coast culture

From Aboriginal wall art in Arnhem Land to exceptional contemporary art in Sydney, Australia's cultural offerings leave Richard Dorment bowled over. Read more

Compiled by Jolyon Attwooll