Field of Light, Yulara, Northern Territory © Tourism NT/Mitchell Cox
Experience Australia’s spectacular outdoor art galleries
Head to the great Australian outdoors to discover incredible art in stunning natural vistas.
By Simon Webster
You don’t have to be in a gallery to experience world-class art in Australia. This is a country that loves the outdoor lifestyle, so it’s only natural that some of the art should be alfresco, too. From the Western Australian outback to the base of Uluru, here are some outdoor galleries that combine human creativity with natural beauty in remarkable ways.
Museum of Underwater Art
Where: Townsville, Queensland
A series of installations and sculptures within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) is one of the most unique museums in the world – and it's a museum with a mission. You can see MOUA’s first installation, Ocean Siren, in the waters off Townsville. However, the Coral Greenhouse installation has been installed on the ocean floor 18m (60ft) below sea level at John Brewer Reef. Part of your tour includes education about conservation efforts aimed at protecting this precious ecosystem.
Field of Light
Where: Uluru, Northern Territory
In 1992, British artist Bruce Munro, travelling to Uluru in the Northern Territory, felt a compelling connection to the energy of the desert landscape. He made some sketches in his notebook and, 14 years later, his Field of Light installation opened next to one of the world’s most famous rocks.
In the local Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal language, the installation is called Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku, or “looking at lots of beautiful lights”– the perfect description. It’s a huge, dramatic piece, made up of more than 50,000 solar-powered stems that light up at sunset and glow gently and rhythmically throughout the night beneath the glittering and uninterrupted outback sky. You can experience it in numerous ways, including by camel, at sunrise, or combined with an iconic Sounds of Silence dinner at Ayers Rock Resort.
PUBLIC Silo Trail
Where: Western Australia
Turning grain silos into giant works of art has become a bit of a thing in Australia, bringing some truly arresting visuals to our already magnificent natural settings. It all started in Northam, near Perth, in 2015, when FORM, a Western Australian not-for-profit cultural organisation, commissioned British mural artist Phlegm and American artist HENSE to transform eight 38m tall (125ft) fully operational grain silos. Today, the PUBLIC Silo Trail stretches for 1,000km (620mi) across Western Australia. There are six silo sites, plus murals on walls and transformer boxes in a seventh town, all created by renowned mural artists.
Silo Art Trail
If the idea of giant painted silos has captured your imagination, you’ll find another spectacular trail in western Victoria’s Wimmera Mallee region. Stretching more than 200km (125mi), the Silo Art Trail began in 2016, when Australian mural artist Guido van Helten painted dramatic depictions of local farmers on disused silos in the town of Brim. Today, there are eight sites on the trail, including a giant kelpie sheepdog and farmer at Nullawil, and Aboriginal elders and children at Sheep Hills. You’ll find plenty more silo art around the country – see the Australian Silo Art Trail website for details and a handy map.
Where: Lake Ballard, Western Australia
Keen on something more unusual and avant-garde? Lake Ballard, a vast white salt plain in the Western Australia outback, is the otherworldly setting for a remarkable work by Turner Prize-winning British sculptor Antony Gormley. Inside Australia comprises 51 alloy sculptures, representing residents of the nearby town of Menzies (and a few out-of-towners), scattered around the western end of this dramatic and seemingly endless flat space. The work is best viewed in the early morning or late afternoon, when shadows are long.
Heide Museum of Modern Art
Where: Bulleen, Victoria
Heide Museum of Modern Art was once the home of arts benefactors John and Sunday Reed. Their ambition was to turn their home into a public museum and park, a wish that came true in 1981.
As well as a museum, the property has 15 acres (6 hectares) of beautiful grounds that are home to a remarkable Sculpture Park. Alongside temporary exhibits, more than 35 permanent sculptures can be found here, including the epic Rings of Saturn by Inge King, which dominates a hill overlooking the Yarra River; Mary Magdalene, a striking bronze by Italian-born Melbourne artist George Baldessin; and Cows by Jeff Thomson, a nod to the dairy farm that once occupied the site.
Sculpture by the Sea
Where: Bondi Beach, New South Wales
Every spring, the already spectacular Bondi to Bronte walk is transformed into a temporary sculpture park with the addition of hundreds of weird and wonderful artworks in the world's largest free-to-the-public sculpture exhibition. The Sculpture by the Sea festival lasts about three weeks with large-scale works placed along the beaches and rocky outcrops between Bondi and Tamarama. The 2km (1.2mi) coastal walk has featured thought-provoking and unique installations depicting everything from giant frying pans to silver peacocks.
Where: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia boasts an array of intriguing exhibitions, but the art doesn’t stop when you reach the door. Perched next to the waters of Lake Burley Griffin lies the gallery's Sculpture Garden, an unconventional landscape that was designed to complement the building by mirroring its triangular shape.
First opened in 1981 by Harry Howard and Associates and the Gallery’s Director, James Mollison, the garden has since seen new and fascinating additions, creating a surreal experience for those who wander its paths. Show-stoppers, including Fujiko Nakaya’s fog sculpture (open 12:30 pm to 2 pm daily), Pukamani burial poles and Antony Gormley's life-sized Angle of the North are must-sees.