Among the well-touted trappings that inspires flocks of adoring tourists to our exceptionally beautiful and exceptionally vast island we call home – the glistening, overpriced mecca that is Bondi beach, the picturesque laneways and haven of gourmet food and coffee on offer in Melbourne, the stunning Uluru, the breathtaking coasts and the overwhelmingly victorious sight that is Sydney Harbour — it’s relatively easy to forget that Australia, time and time again, offers exquisite and informative art exhibitions across its countless galleries; boasting what truly are certified tourist attractions and culture magnets for art-loving locals. 

To coincide with the opening weekend of the NGV’s stellar exhibition Melbourne Now, celebrating the spectacular history of Melbourne’s visual aesthetes, we’ve rounded up the best art exhibitions across Australia that are on now, or running throughout the summer months to provide a chic, cultured and air-conditioned alternative to hitting up the beach. 

MELBOURNE NOW, NGV, 22 NOVEMBER – MARCH 2014; FREE

NGV’s Melbourne Now exhibition showcases a slew of astonishing contemporary artworks by Melbourne locals, reflecting on the city and its unbridled artistic influence from the artists, designers and architects that call Melbourne home. 400 artists are on display in this multi-disciplinary array of exceptional talent. 

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard
An extraordinary painting, ‘Southeast’ by Daivd Jolly on display at Melbourne Now. 

CALIFORNIA DESIGN 1930 – 1965: LIVING IN A MODERN WAY, QUEENSLAND ART GALLERY

Featuring a broad collection of industrial, commercial, architectural, fashion and craft design from the iconic mid century period in California, Queensland Art Gallery’s exhibition showcases over 200 pieces exuding Mad Men vibes, including objects from the legendary Charles and Ray Eames, as well as Henry Dreyfuss and Raymond Loewy. 

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard
Chair porn galore.

MOFO, HOBART 15- 19 JANUARY 2014

MONA FOMA, delightfully shortened to MOFO, is a four day festival curated by Brian Ritchie and co-hosted by Australia’s newest art destination, Hobart’s Museum of Old And New Art. The festival features music, performance and art featuring Client Liason, Pixar in Concert with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, among countless other fascinating musical and artistic acts. See the full lineup and buy tickets to avoid F.O.M.O at MONA FOMA here.

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard

GOLD AND THE INCAS, LOST WORLDS OF PERU, NGA, 6 DECEMBER – APRIL 2014

Exclusive to Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia, Gold and the Incas will appeal to those with an interest in ogling fascinating, ancient and beautiful objects (aka, everybody, ffs). Touted as the most important survey of Peruvian art ever held in Australia, the exhibition will showcase intricate jewellery, decadent sculptures, pieces and ancient trinkets made of gold as well as woven cloths and embroidery.

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard

BEN QUILTY: AFTER AFGHANISTAN, BLUE MOUNTAINS CULTURAL CENTRE, UNTIL DECMBER 8

Revered Australian art icon Ben Quilty’s traveling exhibition, Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan will finish up its final weeks at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre on December 8 before traveling to Dubbo, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth in 2014. The exhibition shows Quilty’s stunning portraits of Australian servicemen and women in Afghanistan, commissioned as the official war artist on tour in Afghanistan in 2011. 

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard

VAN GOGH, DAIL AND BEYOND, ART GALLERY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA, UNTIL 2 DECEMBER

Catch the last days of AGWA’s magnificent slice of New York’s MoMA, with a traveling exhibition that features 194 artworks from some of the art world’s most immensely important figures: Cézanne, Frida Khalo, Gustav Klimt, Picasso, Hans Richter, Vincent Van Gogh… and beyond. An exhibition brimming with the kind of phenomenal artwork tourists would travel across the world to see. 

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard

AMERICA: PAINTING A NATION, ART GALLERY OF NSW, UNTIL FEBRUARY 2014

A hugely important exhibition is being held at the AGNSW, focussing on American painting – featuring greats from the States including the inimitable Georgia O’Keefe, visceral works to lose yourself in from the exceptionally moving Mark Rothko, along with others from Edward Hopper and Jackson Pollock. The exhibition also boasts an accompanying film series. FREE screenings of great American films including The Grapes Of Wrath, Lincoln, There Will Be Blood, Citizen Kane (among others) will be shown at the gallery. Free films, you guise. Free. 

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard
Detail from ‘Horse’s Skull With Pink Rose’ (Georgia O’Keefe, 1931)

WAR IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT – YOKO ONO, MCA, UNTIL FEBRUARY 2014

The highly anticipated art event and rare showcasing of Yoko Ono’s work is open and ready to be ‘grammed – featuring a vast selection of Yoko Ono’s sculptural, installation, text and interactive artworks. John Lennon described her as “The world’s most famous unknown artist”; nevertheless this exhibition is astonishingly memorable and an event in Sydney not to be missed. 

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard

SHAUN TAN’S THE LOST THING: FROM BOOK TO FILM, ACMI, UNTIL 19 JANUARY 2014

Cult Australian artist, illustrator and writer Shaun Tan has his most well-known and completely flawless work, The Lost Thing, immortalised at Melbourne’s Australian Centre For Moving Image, featuring original sketches, drawings and exclusive clips from the animation artists who were integral to transitioning The Lost Thing from picture book to an acclaimed short film.

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard

CAI GUO-QIANG: FALLING BACK TO EARTH, GOMA, UNTIL MAY 2014

Opening today at Queensland’s GOMA, legendary artist Cai Guo-Qiang holds an exclusive exhibition featuring three stunning installations. Heritage features 99 replica animals from around the world; while Head On (below) displays 99 artificial wolves arranged in a lucid motion, leaping towards a glass wall. Truly stunning and thought provoking work that is worth the trip to GOMA especially.

10 Must-See Art Exhibitions In Your Own Backyard