Graham Reid | | 4 min read
We know Sydney is for shopping. But it's also a city where you can take a walk of art and come away excited, impressed, perhaps bewildered and always stimulated. So here are some suggestions for an arty but leisurely day out in Sydney (during which you will pass other galleries and points of interest), with some dining suggestions added.
After breakfast somewhere down by
Circular Quay or on The Rocks watching others hurrying to work, amble
around the foreshore past the MCA and under the Harbour Bridge which
opened 80 years ago (try counting the rivets, six million
apparently). Around the other side on Hickson Rd you reach Walsh Bay
with its handsomely renovated sheds on piers where groups like the
Sydney Dance and Sydney Theatre companies are located. Just past the
Sebel Pier One hotel (pop your nose in the lobby for a look, it's
impressive) you'll see the sign “Artwork ahead”.
And it is.
Around Walsh Bay you can take a sculpture walk where half a dozen striking pieces will grab your attention, starting with Jimmie Durham's Still Life with Stone and Car in the centre of the roundabout.
As with the cars at Cadillac Ranch in Texas, graffiti artists and scribblers are constantly changing the look of the piece.
You can pick up a guide to the sculpture walk in the office at the end of nearby Pier 4/5 (grab a copy of the Historic Walk brochure as well and combine the two) and make the time to amble along the piers for spectacular views of the harbour.
Phil Price's constantly changing wind sculpture Tri is at the end of Pier 8/9.
Don't miss the office of Transfield Services either on the same pier (behind the piece by Diego Latella on your map).
Their lobby, open to the public, is stacked with award-winning cutting-edge sculpture, like Richard Goodwin's Co-isolated slave where an old tricycle carries an upturned state-of-the-art motorbike.
Give yourself at least 90 minutes of strolling and looking – there are plenty of coffee stops if you wish to just take in the views – and make sure you see Brett Whitely's Black Totem II at the top of a stairway leading to Kent St directly opposite Michael Snape's industrial abstract The Change which you can't miss. It's right there on the footpath near Pier 8/9.
Some possibilities while you are in the area? The award-winning Mediterranean-style Cafe Sopra at Fratelli's Fresh on Hickson St is highly recommended for a refreshing lunch with delightful wine, but you may wish for something more . . . Australian?
If so, retrace your steps a little then head up the hill on Lower Fort St towards Cumberland St.
On the way you'll pass the Harbour View Hotel, further around The Glenmore Hotel (a rooftop bar with 180 degree harbour views) before you reach The Australian (famous for its pizzas). Any one of these historic hotels is a good place to take time out and maybe settle in for beer. (A tip? The Australian boasts Scharer's lager, a crisp Bavarian style brew.)
Or you could catch a cab from Walsh Bay and head for Danks St in Waterloo for lunch at the sophisticated but casual Danks Street Depot where the menu changes daily.
The advantage of heading to Danks St is that within fewer than five minutes walk from your lunch table are almost a dozen galleries, including the gallery of Aboriginal And Pacific Art, the Conny Dietzschold Gallery and the Sydney Metropolitan Gallery. (See here for more information.)
Across the road is the handsome but controversial Agathon Galleries which specialises in Aboriginal art. (It's controversial because it deals directly with artists in communities rather than following protocols which other galleries observe). (See here for more on the politics of Aboriginal art.)
Or, of course, you simply go for the big one: the Art Gallery of New South Wales which has, until March 25 2012, an exhibition of 150 works by Picasso in addition to the exceptional Aboriginal works in its permanent collection.
Not had your fill of art yet but have an appetite after all that walking and looking? Then you definitely need Lucio's Italian Restaurant in Windsor St, Paddington where your host Lucio Galletto offers elegant but family-style dining, excellent wine from his home region of Liguria . . . and the walls are covered by paintings donated by artists he has supported, or with works he has bought. Amazing. His book Soffritto; A Delicious Ligurian Memoir for sale at the desk is worth picking because it tells a great family history, with recipes.
After a day of exercise, fine art and food you deserve a treat. Go to Spice Temple (through a discreet door to the left of the entrance to the famous Rockpool restaurant, on Bligh St in the CBD) for a late-night cocktail. The Rooster comes recommended.
And why here?
Aside from the obvious attraction of a hideaway room with a good ambience, there isn't a piece of art on the walls.
Believe me, by this time you'll appreciate their absence.
Graham Reid travelled to Sydney courtesy of Tourism Australia, Destination New South Wales and Qantas