Before you decree Australia's cultural landscape inferior to that of our northern counterparts, take stock of the incredible lineup of exhibitions and events opening around the country in summer 2014.
As our hot days and balmy nights slowly give way to falling leaves, make the most of the outdoors during Sydney's seemingly never-ending festival season. Sydney Festival, which runs from January 9 to 27, is, as always, filled with events spanning music, theatre, dance, opera, circus, cabaret and installation, under the artistic direction of Lieven Bertels. Highlights include the Black Diggers Project, and Visitors, a film by Godfrey Reggio, Philip Glass and Jon Kane with live music by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, there are plenty of free events, with some great days out for the whole family, including the popular Ferrython, acrobatic and aerial performances by Ockham's Razor, and a giant rubber duck in Parramatta River.
Chinese New Year Festivities
Chinese New Year Festival begins on January 10 and runs through to February 22, with the highlight, of course, being the annual Twilight Parade, which begins at Sydney Town Hall, travels through Chinatown, and ends with fireworks at Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour. The free event is the largest Chinese New Year event outside of Mainland China and includes: spectacular light projections on the facades of city buildings; Golden River dancers; and floats from local Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese communities. The parade is certainly not the only event on the calendar.
The Dragon Ball at The Star returned last year after a hiatus since the 1970s. Beginning in the 1930s at the former Trocadero in Sydney, the Dragon Ball was once the most popular event on the Chinese social calendar, and today is a fun night full of dancing and cocktails. Chinese New Year markets comprising food and performances will run at Belmore Park the weekend of Australia Day; the popular Dragon Boat Races will take to the waters of Cockle Bay Wharf on February 8 and 9; and restaurants across Sydney will take part in Lunar Feasts, with set-price meals celebrating the Year of the Horse.
Sol LeWitt: The Art Gallery Of NSW
The Art Gallery of New South Wales opens one of its most exciting shows in recent times on February 20: a survey of the work of American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, Your Mind is Exactly At That Line. Drawn from the gallery's permanent collection, one of the most comprehensive holdings in the world. With works on paper, wall drawings and sculpture, the exhibition will demonstrate the sheer breadth of LeWitt's oeuvre.
Melbourne Exhibitions & Events
Clocked up some Frequent Flyer points over the past year? There's plenty happening interstate, too. In our sister city, the National Gallery of Victoria's hugely ambitious, and biggest exhibition to date, Melbourne Now, is still running. With close to 200 artists exhibiting work that extends beyond traditional fine art to include architecture, design, dance and sound, there is much to see here, so dedicate a day to visit the gallery's two sites at Federation Square and Southbank. On the top of our list is street artist Ash Keating's major piece on the northern exterior wall of the gallery, the Hotham Street Ladies' icing sugar-covered share house installation, and Susan Dimasi's tapestry-based performance art.
If you're in Melbourne, venture out of the city to the Bendigo Art Gallery and see Modern Love, a fantastic exhibition co-curated by Kevin Jones of the Fashion Institute of Design Museum in Los Angeles. The regional Victorian gallery has been increasing the presence of fashion within its curatorial programming recently, with last year's Grace Kelly: Style Icon exhibition attracting some 152,000 visitors. Modern Love comprises around 60 works from the post-punk period of the 1980s to the new millennium, providing a retrospective account of contemporary fashion history, with work by the likes of Christian Dior, Thom Browne, Miuccia Prada and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Following the success of 2013's inaugural White Night Melbourne—the night-long arts festival made famous by the city of Paris (known as Nuit Blanche) since 2001—returns February 14, but, as was recently announced, at quadruple the size. The 2014 incarnation will include: moonlight synchronised swimming; an outdoor R&B music stage; and an old-school-style sideshow carnival.
Tasmania's MONA MOFO
In Tasmania, madcap art museum MoNA presents its festival of music and art, MOFO, from January 15 to 19. Indeed, this is no ordinary arts event—it's biennale, music festival, nightclub and street food fair, all rolled into one.
Don't miss Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang's major solo exhibition Falling Back to Earth at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane (running until May 11), which includes his famous Head On installation, a giant arc of 99 lifelike wolves flying aimlessly through the air. For the exhibition, the artist specifically created a lifesize waterhole in the gallery, from which 99 lifesize animal replicas are drinking.