From a ‘Eulogy for Dyke Bars’ to ‘Queering the Collection’, 2023 marks the first time Sydney WorldPride has been held in the Southern Hemisphere—and among the celebrations are an incredible array of art exhibitions. Taking place at major and smaller art institutions, the shows feature artists from both Australia and abroad, looking at sexuality, desire, history and identity—and often with a First Nations focus. We’ve curated a list of what you can’t miss.
Absolutely Queer is an astounding, poignant celebration of the work of Sydney queer creatives while showing a diverse, dynamic and complex exploration of community, history and activism. Participating artists or artist collaborations include The Beautiful and Useful Studio of Maurice Goldberg and Matthew Aberline, Dennis Golding, Justin Shoulder, Norrie, and Rene Rivas, among numerous others. Mediums include installation, performance art, video, costume design and more. A dazzling display of Sydney’s queer culture both past and present, the exhibition also has a public program of performances and workshops.
The Art Gallery of NSW’s program for Sydney WorldPride will see works presented across both its new North Building and its venerable old South Building, befitting a program that embraces both contemporary innovation in queer art-making and queer histories. The Queer encounters exhibition, in the South Building, will feature new works by Bhenji Ra, Dennis Golding, Sione Tuívailala Monū and Sidney McMahon. In the same building is Queering the collection, with more than 50 works from the Gallery’s collection by LGBTQIA+ artists over the decades. The Gallery’s showpiece event, meanwhile, is Queer Art After Hours on 22 February in the North Building, which will offer music, performance, installation and a dedicated youth space.
The Australian Design Centre is presenting two exhibitions for WorldPride, both devoted to textiles. Unravelling Queerly features 10 LGBTQIA+ artists showcasing works (including knitted protest banners) dedicated to activism and identity. Among the artists are Nadia Hernandez, Kate Just, Blake Lawrence and Raisa Kabir. The other exhibition, Chili Philly: Crochet Social 2023, celebrates the work of well-known Australian textile artist Phil Ferguson (aka Chili Philly). This show will see Ferguson’s innovative, performative and playful crochet creations beamed out as videos (from the artist’s Instagram archives) on to the street.
At the National Art School is Queer Contemporary which is three exhibitions in one. Braving Time: Contemporary Art in Queer Australia, curated by Richard Perram OAM, is a wide-ranging survey of Australian LGBTQIA+ art, and features artists who have made key contributions to queer discourse in recent years, such as Karla Dickens, Tony Albert, Brook Andrew, Emily Parsons-Lord, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran and William Yang. The fascinating Fulgora exhibition is a series of video pieces in which the works of five contemporary Australian video artists are presented alongside films programmed in collaboration with Dirty Looks Inc, the Los Angeles-based collective that platforms queer film and performance. The Australian video artists are Tarik Ahlip, Claudia Nicholson, Jimmy Nuttall, Ainslie Templeton, and VT. The third show is Luke Thurgate’s Adore You, which comprises a large mural by the acclaimed Sydney artist, inspired by the Ghent Altarpiece, 1432, by the van Eyk brothers. Visitors can watch Thurgate working on the mural on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons throughout the exhibition’s run.
The alluring paintings of Daniel McDonald might be described as abstract and minimal, yet in NEXUS they also take on figurative forms that suggest both landscape and seascape. McDonald’s exhibition is a meditation on his upbringing on the NSW coast and in Sydney, but also seeks to celebrate diversity and connection. McDonald, a Deaf, First Nations (Gadigal and Wonnarua), LGBTQIA+ artist, will not only exhibit paintings at WorldPride—he will also provide the Welcome to Country for the Mardi Gras Parade, and deliver a speech at the Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference (March 1-3).
Eulogy for the Dyke Bar is an installation and interactive artwork by US-based artist Macon Reed. The idea is to recreate the layout and style of iconic lesbian bars of the past, and for this inclusive space to be used for conversation, debate, performance and socialising. The bar, complete with things like a pool table, neon signs and wood panelling, is fashioned from “ephemeral materials” and also features archival materials from bars and parties in both Australia and the US. Reed says: “Eulogy for the Dyke Bar honours the complex role and histories that dyke bars have played for the larger queer community. It acknowledges that many are now gone due to factors like gentrification, assimilation, and perhaps changing needs in the community.”
Linger, Dash, Talk is an intriguing multi-disciplinary group exhibition that features some of Australia’s most dynamic voices addressing questions of First Nations and queer identity, examining language can create bonds, yet also exclude and alienate. Textile artist and poet Kirli Saunders is among the artists with newly commissioned works, along with painter Troy-Anthony Bayliss, and performance and film trio Stelly G, Kiki Oner and Garden Reflexxx. Other works come from Jenna Lee and Mackenzie Lee, Benjy Russell, and Ellen Van Neerven.
This electrifying event is a 24-hour-long series of performances and “queer ceremonies”—almost like a festival, in many ways. The weekend is a celebration of Performance Space’s ‘Day For Night’ party, which has run for 10 years, and will feature over 20 artists, performance artists, musicians and DJs, all contributing to an extravaganza of queer culture, collective rituals, theatrical performance and colourful art-making.