Canberra isn’t just Australia’s political capital – it’s a contender for its cultural capital, too. Alongside the administrative bigwigs sit galleries, libraries, museums, memorials and cultural institutions to rival any others in the country. And with the city’s centralised design, it’s easy to see it all, even if you’re only visiting for the weekend.
Here are four cultural pit stops to make if you’re heading to Canberra any time soon. Spread them out over 48 hours, or squeeze them into just a day. Thankfully, they’re all close by.
National Photographic Portrait Prize 2023 Exhibition
Every year, Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery displays the crème de la crème of portraits by Australian photographers, selected from thousands of entries. This year’s exhibition highlights 47 finalists, led by winner Shea Kirk and his work Ruby (left view), a black-and-white portrait of fellow artist Emma Armstrong-Porter that senior curator Joanna Gilmour called “a masterful and technically complex work where the sitter has no self-consciousness”. Other works explore themes of contemporary life for First Nations people, the war in Ukraine, social isolation and the search for personal identity. More than 2300 entries were submitted for this year’s prize, worth a hefty $30,000. You can have your say by voting in the People’s Choice Award when you visit.
Grit and Gold: Tales From a Sporting Nation
Think of well-known figures in the collective Australian consciousness with near-mythical status, and you’re bound to find names like Shane Warne and Cathy Freeman popping up alongside prime ministers, actors and outlaws. Sport is central to the Australian cultural identity and has been since before there was even a nation to identify with. The National Library of Australia’s Grit and Gold looks at the history of our obsession, from early imports of British pastimes to the era of professionalism and our now-iconic sporting identities. Expect to see memorabilia, photographs, books, magazines and paintings that celebrate our love of a little (or a lot) of friendly competition.
Know My Name: Making It Modern
The National Gallery of Australia’s Know My Name is an ongoing project highlighting the work of Australian women artists. Its third iteration focuses on the work of six pioneers in modern Australian art – Ethel Spowers, Eveline Syme, Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, Clarice Beckett and Olive Cotton – and explores what it meant to be a woman in each of their respective times. From Cossington Smith’s vivid scenes of the early 20th century to Spowers’ urban linocuts and Preston’s groundbreaking portraits, Know My Name is a celebration of each artist’s (often underappreciated) contribution to Australian art.
Yeribee Indigenous Experiences of Parliament House
Canberra is the seat of political power in Australia and at its centre is Parliament House – a place with important Indigenous connections. The Yeribee guided tour explores the many ways First Nations peoples have engaged with Parliament House and Australia’s democratic process. Weaving a mix of art and history, the tour explores the site’s early history, important artworks from the Parliament House collection and significant milestones in Indigenous political history, including The Barunga Statement and The Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples.
This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Canberra’s Cultural Icons.