Art & Design

Get Cultured At 13 Of Sydney’s Best Art Galleries

By Emma O'Neill
26th Jul 2019

Sydney's Best Art Galleries | Urban List Sydney

If you're in need of a little creative inspiration, or the weather is too cold, too hot or too rainy—Sydney has a solid collection of brilliant art galleries to peruse.

From hard-hitting commercial spaces, to off-beat artist-run-initiatives and sprawling private collections, art parties, artist talks, inspiring panels and local and international talent on show, there's something for everyone. 

So here you go, satisfy your culture appetite with 13 of Sydney’s most exciting art galleries. 

Galerie Pompom

Chippendale

Known for the best and busiest exhibition openings in town, Galerie pompom keeps the crowds returning by showcasing only the freshest talent. With their fingers on the pulse, pompom’s gallery directors consistently select artists that are fun, controversial, colourful and new. Comprised of two spaces, the Chippendale venue exhibits their stable artists in the larger gallery alongside emerging unrepresented talent in the window space. With a new exhibition opening every 4 weeks, expect a roster of artist talks, preview nights for collectors and the occasional art dinner.

Upcoming highlights: In September, the gallery returns to Sydney Contemporary at Carriageworks. Up next in the gallery will be Elvis Richardson and Stefan Dunlop on show from 7 August.

White Rabbit Gallery

Chippendale

With only two exhibitions a year and two chances to impress, the exhibitions staged at White Rabbit Gallery are nothing short of mind-blowing. While most galleries changeover exhibitions in a day or two, this Chippendale space closes for one month (usually August and February) to meticulously prepare each installation. Collector and philanthropist Judith Neilson set up the space a decade ago to showcase her private collection of contemporary Chinese Art. That collection now houses more than 2,700 works by approximately 750 artists. Enjoy one of the daily free guided tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm with some handmade dumplings and only the best Chinese tea at the downstairs teahouse to follow.

Upcoming Highlights: Coming up in September, in celebration of ten years, Then takes a chronological walkthrough of the first ten years of the collection (2000 - 2010) and evokes the spirit of the early years of the gallery. This will be followed in March 2020 with the exhibition called And Now, which looks at the more recent works in the Collection

Darren Knight Gallery

Waterloo

One of the most approachable gallerists in town, it is Darren Knight’s astute eye that has kept his eponymous gallery in business since 1992. He set up shop in Melbourne before relocating to Waterloo, Sydney in 1997. Averaging at 16 shows per year (excluding art fairs) the gallery holds two exhibitions across two floors every 5 weeks, with openings on Saturdays, and the occasional artist talk or musical performance.

Often quirky or droll, without any pretense and always backed by artistic prowess, Knight’s exhibitions never fail to delight. The shows are as varied as they are fresh: ranging from a show solely dedicated to portraits of tied up dogs in Rose Bay by renowned painter Noel McKenna, to a suite of unrepresented, underground artists from across the Indonesian archipelago and an upcoming debut of Robyn Stacey’s large-scale, single-colour photographic works. It’s clear that after 27 years, Darren Knight Gallery isn’t going anywhere.

Upcoming Highlights: Melbourne based artist Louise Weaver presents with the gallery from 31 August - 28 September alongside new photographic works by Berlin-based, New Zealand artist Ben Cauchi. Ben employs a 19th-century wet-plate photographic technique to make one-off photographs on glass plates.

Sullivan+Strumpf

Zetland

Just three days after her arrival to Sydney from Brisbane, Joanna Strumpf met Ursula Sullivan. Working together for a well-known art dealer, the pair became fast friends. Together as they climbed the ranks of the art world and over the years they have amassed an impressive art collection that has formed the basis of their gallery a decade later in 2005. Just over ten years later, in 2016, the power duo became the first Australian gallerists to have a permanent space in Asia with an outpost in Singapore.

With their ears to the ground across the Asia-Pacific, they represent the cutting edge of contemporary art in the region. Of note, is the VR work of Shanghainese artist Yang Yongliang, the superhero figures of Balinese painter Nyoman Masriadi and the twisted, colourful chromosomal forms of Japanese-Australian artist Hiromi Tango. 

Upcoming highlights: Barbara Cleveland debuts with the gallery from 23 November – 21 December, alongside eX de Medici with beautifully intricate drawings and paintings.

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Paddington

Director Roslyn Oxley has been shaping the biggest names in the art scene since she threw open her gallery doors in the epicentre of Paddington in 1982. In 37 years, more than 11 of her stable artists have represented the country in the lauded Venice Biennale. Needless to say, the gallery has fostered the careers of some of the most influential Australian artists working today, including Tracey Moffatt, Jenny Watson, Fiona Hall, Patricia Piccinini, Bill Henson, Imants Tillers and Dale Frank.

From orchestral performances, to artist talks and private dinners—the gallery stages a dynamic roster of events to pair with a dual exhibition changeovers every 3 weeks. Lately, Oxley has also been turning her all-seeing eye on younger, emerging artists such as Kirtika Kain, Tom Polo, and Kaylene Whiskey. No doubt, they’ll soon be household names.

Upcoming highlights: Kaylene Whiskey alongside the inimitable Del Kathryn Barton in October following her inclusion in the National and 2018 Sir John Sulman Prize win. 

Cement Fondu

Paddington

In March 2018, Cement Fondu stepped onto the scene with a group exhibition called Suburbia and a launch party line-up of dance, music, performance and food. Once home to acclaimed photography gallery STILLS, the Paddington space has maintained momentum with a stack of impressive shows and out-of-the-box programming. Take, for example, a dress-up photoshoot where gallery-goers were draped in blankets made by artist Sione Monu, entertained by DJ Leo Tanoi and served up drinks courtesy of Young Henrys. Unlike their neighbouring galleries, Cement Fondu doesn’t represent artists in the traditional sense but instead offers a platform for them to pursue experimental, non-traditional forms of art-making. So far, the formula is really paying off.

Upcoming highlights: The gallery will be hosting Heath Franco's newest solo exhibition, Valley, opening Saturday 3 August. Franco’s practice encompasses performance, costume, sound and installation—and uses psychotropic aesthetics, caricature and surrealist installation to unpack the chaos of contemporary existence. For Valley, Franco will be using large-scale construction to create immersive, interactive environments. To pair, there'll be a series of workshops that playfully investigate alter-egos and camouflage.

Firstdraft

Woolloomooloo

The oldest artist-run initiative in Australia, Firstdraft is hands-down, the cool kid of the art scene and incubator to some of the country’s best artists, writers, and leading cultural workers. Hosting three to four exhibitions per month from January through to November, the program is developed through a twice-yearly call out, open to all.

Hotly anticipated every year is their annual fundraising auction which takes place in August. Artist’s who started at Firsdraft and made it to the top return to donate some killer works available for a fraction of their commercial gallery price. New buyers and seasoned collectors alike flock to the Woolloomooloo gallery to get a slice.

Upcoming highlights: The 10th Fundraising Auction on Friday 2 August, which includes works by Amber Boardman, Danie Mellor, Genevieve Felix Reynolds, Greg Hodge, Heath Franco, Jason Phu, Joan Ross, Ken Done, Khaled Sabsabi, Tony Albert and Tracey Moffatt. If you're keen to kick off your own collection, this would be an epic place to start. 

Jerico Contemporary

Woolloomooloo

It’s only been 18 months since Jerico Tracy opened her bricks and mortar space in Woolloomooloo, but the gallerist has quickly proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Kicking off with a sell-out show of Danish artist Christiane Spangsberg, the eponymous space has since enjoyed openings packed with some of Sydney’s coolest art buyers. Visitors mull over the sculptures of Holly Ryan, Jamie Preisz’s richly finished paintings or the otherworldly images by Anna Pogossova. Join in to celebrate the opening of each exhibition every four weeks, usually on a Thursday evening from 6-8pm. If you prefer a day-time visit, soak up one of the regular artist talks, book launches and panel discussions of a weekend.

Upcoming highlights: Jerico Contemporary presents the second showing of Paige Northwood, Sacred Life, in late July. The works will reflect on Northwood’s experience of living between Alice Springs and the Indigenous community of Hermannsburg (Ntaria).

The Commercial

Marrickville

Featuring the likes of Archibald prize winner Mitch Cairns, Sydney Biennale exhibitor Yasmin Smith and Redlands Konica Diena Georgetti—gallery director Amanda Rowell boasts a stable of 16 museum-worthy artists whose works balance strong aesthetics and conceptual integrity.

After managing Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery for more than a decade, Rowell broke out on her own in 2012 to open The Commercial in Redfern before graduating to a far larger, industrial space in Marrickville. The destination gallery hosts exhibitions and events during the day to capitalise on the natural light that streams into the main space. While the main showcase changes every 5-6 weeks, visitors can wander through the library and hallways to find something different each visit—whether it be a curated stockroom hang or a special project show.

Upcoming highlights: A stunning exhibition of Narelle Jubelin miniatures July - August followed by a major presentation of Diena Georgetti paintings in September to coincide with a group presentation at Sydney Contemporary.

AIRspace Projects inc.

Marrickville

In 2014 artists Sally Clarke and Brenda Factor went searching for a studio and ended up signing the lease on a run-down warehouse space that had been both a garage and a sweatshop in its former life. The building has since been transformed to one of Sydney’s top artist-run initiatives, run by a tight-knit board of accomplished practitioners. Brand new exhibitions open on the first Friday of every month and run for three weeks. On the third Saturday of the show period, exhibiting artists descend on the gallery to give you a key to their work, share their ideas and sometimes their secrets.

Upcoming highlights: On Friday 2 August from 6 - 8pm, AIRspace will present a series of work relating to Marrickville's history with a focus on sweatshops and labour as part of the Midjuburi Precinct Creative Trails. It'll feature a curated group show titled Re-Work with the incredible Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Stella Chen, Tracey Clement, JD Reforma, Megan Hanson, Katy B Plummer and Sue Pedley.

Artereal Gallery

Rozelle

Art collector and philanthropist Luisa Catanzaro founded Artereal Gallery in 2006 to create for others the kind of experiences of art that had transformed her world. “I’ve always wanted to harness the inherent transformative qualities I see in contemporary art and create a destination that shifts the lives of those inside as they experience the transcendent, the captivating, the emerging,” she says.

For more than 13 years the gallery has been hosting rare, expansive and cutting-edge contemporary art in a wonderfully restored 1890s heritage fire station. Join one of the monthly Wednesday night openings to feel for yourself the gallery's commitment to showing artists that captivate them and reshape their understanding of contemporary practice. With diverse work ranging from the fictive architectural spaces of Anna Carey, the luscious paintings of Sam Holt to the visceral and the vivid sculptural forms of Louise Zhang, the common thread between shows is their conscious curation and all-round magnetism.

Upcoming highlights: In September Artereal will be curating a pop-up exhibition, in collaboration with Yoke magazine as part of Sydney Fringe. Located in the heart of Oxford St, Paddington, the pop-up will present a curated selection of work by Artereal artists and will be a space for performances, activations, a series of artist-curated dinners and panel discussions and workshops.

107 Projects

Redfern

With an event on almost every night, there’s no excuse to not make it to 107 Projects in Redfern. The all-inclusive program is created to align with the needs and wants of the community and there is something for everyone. On Tuesdays, you can rock out under soft lighting and to smooth beats of (arguably) Sydney's best dance class, Groove Therapy. One Friday a month enjoy an accessible, Auslan interpreted comedy night, or create art without the pressure every second Wednesday at an event called "Art Somewhere". There’s a varied schedule of music, performance, installation, visual arts that reflects the diversity of the creative community in Redfern and surrounds.

Upcoming highlights: Check out this introductory glass-blowing course

COMA

Darlinghurst

Nestled between bars on the bustling Stanley Street in Darlinghurst is a staircase that leads to COMA gallery. Since its inception in November 2016, the gallery has consistently presented artists that push the envelope of Australian contemporary practice aesthetically and conceptually. In addition to packed openings every 4 - 5 weeks, COMA regularly hosts moderated talks, exhibition walk-throughs, readings and private artist meetings. In addition to the main space, a smaller, intriguing backroom exhibits an ever-changing show of secondary artworks, often from the international market. 

Upcoming highlights: The gallery will close 2019 with a significant whole venue group show featuring a mix of international and Australian artists. 2020 will see the gallery participate in an international fair and the introduction of some mid-career and established practitioners.

Feeling hungry? Check out Sydney's best brunches right here

Image credit: Shi Yong, A Bunch of Happy Fantasies, 2009 via White Rabbit Gallery. 

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