Bronwyn Oliver – Tarrawarra Museum of Art
Oliver’s sculptures, which echo natural forms such as seashells, flora and cocoons, are about capturing nature’s beauty and intricacy. From a distance, they’re lithe, sinuous and organic. Close up, it’s hard to imagine they were made by human hands. This show at Tarrawarra in the Yarra Valley gathers 50 of her key works – both inside the gallery and in the grounds.
Closed Christmas Day.

Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran: In the Beginning – Ian Potter Museum of Art
Sri Lankan born Sydney artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran has transformed the third floor of the Ian Potter Museum into his own anarchic vision. He’s painted the walls pink and crudely tagged them, making his monstrous clay sculptures feel right at home. His ceramic works pair Hindu gods with internet memes, and draw on traditions from various cultures: classical pottery, Indian iconography, ancient fertility figures. Cultures and genders are skewered and remixed in lurid colour.
Closed from December 23 to January 3.

Life Aquatic – Monash Gallery
Three photographers take on the power of water in this group show at Monash Gallery. Narelle Autio’s underwater photography stays close to the surface, capturing human bodies under the waves. Ruth Maddison arranges seaweed on photographic paper and leaves it out in the sun; he results are otherworldly, organic patterns. Catherine Nelson uses photographs as a starting point and builds digitally manipulated, supernatural landscapes from them. Three artists, one theme, and three very different perspectives.
Closed from December 25–27 and January 1.

David Hockney – National Gallery of Victoria
David Hockney has been one of the biggest names in art – globally – for 50 years. He was one of the original British pop artists, but the NGV’s massive show is drawn entirely from his work over the past decade, showing that even in his seventies Hockney is prolific and groundbreaking. The show features 1000 works – many created on iPad and iPhone. Some depict the English countryside and Yosemite National Park like you’ve never seen them before, and, amazingly, you can watch the artist’s stroke-by-stroke process making these works.
Closed Christmas Day.

O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism – Heide Museum of Modern Art
This is a rare chance to see dozens of paintings by one of the 20th century’s most influential artistic voices. The colours in Georgia O’Keeffe’s lyrical, peaceful takes on the New Mexico dessert are best seen in person. And the O’Keeffes are just one part of this show. Australian painters Grace Cossington-Smith and Margaret Preston both pioneered Australian modernism, and the exhibition is a showcase of how Australians moved the artistic needle forward here. Their work provides a great counterpoint to O’Keeffe’s.
Open Tue to Sun and closed 24, 25, 26 December.

Who’s Afraid of Colour? – National Gallery of Victoria
The NGV has dug into its deep archive for this show and brought together more than 25 years of art by Indigenous women. This show is diverse. It includes everything from traditional woven bags and paintings on bark and jewellery, to photography, sculpture and video. These are all used to channel the full spectrum of the experiences of Indigenous women: everything from historical perspectives, to anger at contemporary attitudes. Closed Christmas Day.

Birds: Flight Paths in Australian Art - Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
Birds have always been an important symbol in Australia, beginning with the Indigenous community. There are more than 70 works in this show, by 50 artists –contemporary, colonial and everything in between – dedicated to the science, symbolism and beauty of birds. Featuring Albert Tucker, Christian Thompson, Ben Quilty and Ginger Riley.
Closed December 24–27 and January 1–2.

Sovereignty – Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Like the NGV show Who’s Afraid of Colour?, Sovereignty focuses on contemporary Indigenous voices, but this show is more of a protest. The name of the exhibition recalls the catch-cry: “sovereignty was never ceded” and a lot of the artists featured are carving out their own black niche in a predominantly white society. It’s a reminder there’s no single voice or attitude that represents the Aboriginal community.
Open Tue to Sun. Closed December 25–26 and January 1–2.

Philippe Parreno: Thenabouts – Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Philippe Parreno is one of the key players in French contemporary art. His films are postmodern and unpredictable, and they’re all about capturing everyday strangeness. This is a showcase of 28 of his short films, but it isn’t just a greatest-hits compilation. Parreno has a reputation for making his exhibitions into artworks themselves. This show is projected and guided by a group of “hosts”, who have been asked to re-order and re-contextualise the films. The program features hours of Parreno’s avant-garde shorts, so the show will never be the same twice.
Closed Christmas Day.