Arts / Culture

Art for art’s sake: Your guide to 20 of our favourite galleries in Sydney

art galleries sydney

Art is for anyone. In fact, art is for everyone. Whatever shape it may take in your life, be it a source of inspiration, a meal to feed your curiosity, a blanket to comfort yourself in, or simply an excuse to dodge the rain, it's a necessity. And in a city like Sydney, where galleries abound, there are plenty of places to get your fill. Below, find 20 art galleries we turn to when the desire strikes.


1. Art Gallery of New South Wales


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Sydney's bread and butter. Celebrating its 150th birthday in 2021, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is gifting itself (and us) a $344 million new building, complete with art garden, with a focus on Modern Art and work from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, set to open at the end of this year. It's the leading visual arts institution in the state, possessing a collection filled with pieces from Albert Namatjira, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud, Eugene von Guerard, Margaret Olley and many more. On Wednesday evenings the gallery hosts Art After Hours where you can wander the halls until late, poring over the current exhibition.


2. Museum of Contemporary Art

An authority on contemporary art, the MCA is another beloved Sydney institution. Positioned in the picturesque location of Circular Quay, head here for a rotating roster of Australian art mixed with that from abroad. On Friday nights, the gallery stays open late with its rooftop bar open and waiting. And it has an excellent gift shop, if you're into that kind of thing.


3. China Heights


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What unites the hoards of artists shown in the seventeen years since Edward Woodley and Mark Drew co-founded China Heights Gallery is the sincerity of their ideas and their ability to translate them to a varied audience. There is also this unshakeable tag of cool attached to the Surry Hills-based gallery. But rather than being the result of some contrived posturing, it's wholeheartedly to do with the artists China Heights champions. Both fresh out of the gates of art school and labouring in the industry for years, their unwavering focus and self-assuredness (paired with a distinct style) is bound to turn heads.




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It took eight years for STATION gallery to multiply and migrate up north to Sydney from Melbourne — a decision we're grateful for all the same. On any given day you can find a host of artists like Nadia Hernández and Julia Trybala exhibiting within its white walls, and the gallery is emboldened by a goal to foster rigorous, critically engaged contemporary art practices.


5. Cement Fondu


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Cement Fondu dishes up art with impact. Always brainstorming fresh ways to engage with audiences, you'll find no cookie cutter pieces here. Rather, the gallery hosts exhibitions where performance art, music, dance and other creative methods collide to confront and move all daring enough to step into the studio space. Recent examples of what you can expect at Cement Fondu includes its immersive collaboration with Studio A, Magical Putt Putt.


6. Abstract Thoughts


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Abstract Thoughts Gallery may be new on the art scene but its leaders are not. It's a passion project of David Abram and Carla Uriarte, both artists themselves and owners of Darlinghurst hot spot Cafe Freda's, where the gallery sits above. Shows are sporadic but have picked up the pace in 2022, with group shows including names like Nadia Hernandez, Jedda Culley and Nakisha Jamieson. Follow along for updates on the gallery's Instagram.


7. Campbelltown Arts Centre

For those desensitised by the inner city art circuit, venture outside your 5km radius and make the trip to Campbelltown Arts Centre. Located on the perimeter of greater Sydney, the edge becomes both metaphor and starting point. Campbelltown Arts Centre welcomes artists and communities whose work is otherwise rendered invisible, to take risks, challenge perceptions and confront issues head on in a safe space guarded just for them.


8. Jerico Contemporary


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A space conjured up in 2018 by Jerico Tracy purely in the name of pairing emerging artists with emerging collectors. On first look the Woolloomooloo gallery is positively teensy, but when you finally make your way in you'll find the opposite to be true. Christiane Spangsberg was one of the first artists to be hung on these white walls, with a lineup that reads like Sydney's greatest hits following in her footsteps. Think Jedda-Daisy Culley and Holly Ryan.


9. Yavuz


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A Sydney offshoot its Singapore blueprint, Yavuz has a reputation for representing a diverse group of artists in an effort to promote intercultural dialogue in contemporary art. Paying particular attention to artists in the Asia Pacific region, Yavuz champions art with a social and political lens. Currently the gallery represents artists like Guy Maestri, Abdul Abdullah, Solomon Kammer, and Stanislava Pinchuk.


10. Chalk Horse


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Once an artist run initiative, Chalk Horse has since reverted to the commercial gallery model in a move toward longevity. Settled in its new digs on William Street, Darlinghurst, the gallery has become a fixture of the Sydney art scene, championing local artists and enabling their success overseas. Previous exhibitions have included a solo show from Madeleine Pfull and Catfished by Benedict Dos Remedios.


11. Sullivan+Strumpf


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A serendipitous business venture founded by close friends Ursula Sullivan and Joanna Strumpf. From its Zetland digs, Sullivan + Strumpf has cemented itself as a heavyweight commercial gallery with an appetite for contemporary art hailing from the Asia Pacific region.


12. Michael Reid

A haven if you're hungry for established Australian artists whose main practice veers in the direction of photomedia. With a flagship in Berlin as well as Chippendale, Michael Reid recognises the importance on building its artists profiles globally as well as locally. Prior exhibitions have included the works of Tamara Dean and Dr Christian Thompson AO.


13. Olsen Gallery


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A space forged by Tim Olsen, the son of celebrated Australian painter John Olsen, a deep respect and admiration for the arts courses through the galleries walls and throughout its international branches. Olsen has nurtured and cultivated a body of artists he feels "presents a comprehensive and poignant view of the contemporary arts in Australia". See what he means at its Paddington headquarters.


14. RoslynOxley9


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Essential to the countries cultural and artistic fabric, Roslyn Oxley9 has been kicking since 1982 and prides itself on nurturing the careers of artists like Tracey Moffatt, David Noonan, Fiona Hall, Patricia Piccinini, and Bill Henson. It's also presented the works of iconic international artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, Tracey Emin and Yayoi Kusama.


15. Blacktown Arts


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Another Western Sydney gem. Located on Darug land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities form the core of works exhibited in this space. Blacktown Arts is recognised and appreciated for its ability to give its local communities a platform to share their stories and experiment with art practices. It's a living breathing example of the belief that art is for everyone.


16. Darren Knight

Poised on a completely unsuspecting street corner in Waterloo, Darren Knight Gallery is practically a veteran of the Sydney art world. The gallery consists of two exhibition spaces, where regular solo and group shows are held. Associated artists include Robert Rooney, Saskia Leek, Anthony Hopkins, Kushana Bush, and more.


17. White Rabbit Gallery

White Rabbit Gallery is in possession of a meticulous collection of Chinese contemporary art, with more than 2000 works by almost 700 artists. Funded by billionaire Judith Neilson, the collection is a result of endless trips to China and Taiwan since Neilson first flocked to Beijing in the 1990s. Taken with the creative energy and technical quality of the works she saw, Judith Neilson has made it her mission to share these works with those outside of China.


18. Artspace


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Art as a tool. Splayed out in The Gunnery, a site that was used as an artists squat in the decade between 1970 and 1980, Artspace is required visiting for any who finds themselves in and around Woolloomooloo. Originally set up as a protest against commercial galleries and AGNSW, the political edge of Artspace has never faded. Here you'll find experimental and collaborative works, intent on shaping public conversation and fostering meaningful engagement with contemporary art.


19. Brett Whiteley Studio

Tucked away in Surry Hills is Brett Whiteley's studio, an old converted warehouse where the artist laboured away in his final years. Through careful preservation the studio remains in certain sections, the exact way Whiteley left it the day he died in 1992. Find a medley of unfinished paintings, art supplies, sketchbooks, photographs, music and personal mementos, all painting a portrait of the late expressionist artist, along with changing exhibitions showcasing his work. On Saturdays the studio offers life drawing classes, but you'll need to sign up in advance to attend.


20. NAS Gallery


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If you want to know what the future of Australian art looks like, consider the National Art School's Gallery your crystal ball. It's a breeding ground for budding artists, offering various Fine Arts degrees where students can major in disciplines like ceramics, drawing, painting, photomedia, printmaking and sculpture. Every year it puts on a ripping Grad Show, and if you're after art after hours, you have to check out its NAS NEO program which runs every Thursday eve until July.

Now that you've got your list of galleries to take with you, here are the are shows and exhibitions to catch in the month of March.

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Images: One, Two, Three