Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto
You enter the NGV’s summer blockbuster through an illuminated, runway-like corridor – an appropriately dramatic entrance to Australia’s first exhibition focused exclusively on the iconic French couturière who transformed women’s fashion. Featuring 230 outfits, pieces of jewellery, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes, you’ll leave the show with a deeper understanding of why we wear what we wear today – including how Chanel converted black from a colour of mourning to a colour of elegance. Sublime black gowns, iconic tweed suits and a bottle of the game-changing No.5 perfume have come from the Palais Galliera museum of fashion in Paris and the Patrimoine de Chanel, the fashion house’s heritage collection. This is a must-see. Read our full exhibition First Look here.

Until April 25 at NGV International. Ticketed.

Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists From Yirrkala
The Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre (Buku) is an Aborignal community-run art centre in Yirrkala, approximately 700 kilometres east of Darwin, in north-east Arnhem Land. The NGV has been collecting works on bark by Yolngu women artists from Buku for more than two decades, and this exhibition features 11 of them. Their extraordinary work celebrates the connection between land and sea according to Yolngu Law. Their detailed, intricate patterning on brightly painted, flattened bark and larrakitj (painted hollow poles) are best seen up close, and are on show at NGV International for the first time ever. You’ll be greeted by one of the works as soon as you enter the gallery; the entire floor of the NGV’s Federation Court is covered in an astonishing large-scale work depicting Milngiyawuy (the Milky Way) by artist Naminapu Maymuru-White.

December 17 until April 25 at NGV International. Free.

Margel Hinder: Modern in Motion
Margel Hinder was a New York-born, Australian sculptor who became a pioneer of avant-garde art forms in the mid-20th century. Inspired by European modernism, her work plays with dramatic angles and the shadows created on surrounding surfaces. This is Hinder’s first major retrospective, curated by Lesley Harding and Denise Mimmocchi from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and sheds much-needed light on a near-forgotten female talent – one responsible for some of “Australia’s most significant modernist public monuments”, according to Heide.

Until February 6 at Heide, 7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen. Free with museum entry.

Shaped
Craft’s summer exhibition is jam-packed with objects galore – 80 to be precise – by 30 Australian artists working with glass, wood, fibre, metal, ceramic, stone and more. The line-up features a refreshing mix of up-and-coming and established makers. Jessie French is one of the most exciting artists on the program; she creates vessels out of an algae-based bioplastic, for which she invented the formula herself. She’ll be featured in next year’s Sydney Biennale. Other makers have created tactile, voluptuous vessels – by hand – out of clay, including Alexandra Standen, whose pieces sit atop very low, carved plinths created by sculptor Steve Clark (better known as Den Holm).

Until January 22 at Craft, Watson Place, Melbourne. Free.

Observance
Featuring video, painting, sculptural installation and text-based work by six First Nations women from the Oceanic region, Observance is a moving exhibition about the ongoing effects of colonialism on family, language and Country. From the rich, red vibrancy of Angela Tiatia’s Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis – a video work in which the New Zealand-Australian artist slowly consumes a vivid red hibiscus – to Lisa Hilli’s long, hanging strands of red beads, which are copies of the trade or slave beads used in Papua New Guinea in the 1800s, this is a powerful and challenging exhibition that “directly challenges skewed historical narratives that have endured, asking audiences to acknowledge their own role in these unresolved histories”, the gallery says.

December 10 2021 to May 8 2022 at Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne university Southbank campus, corner Dodds Street and Southbank Boulevard. Free.

Whose Afraid of Public Space?
This summer-long exhibition takes place at ACCA’s Sturt Street headquarters and beyond, spilling over into satellite exhibitions, installations, events and “interventions” across Melbourne – think billboards, public squares, car parks, housing developments and suburban shopfronts. It’s inspired by global debates around the changing role of public spaces during the pandemic, and is intended to start conversations around urban design, surveillance and gentrification at a time when we’ve never thought more deeply about the way our cities operate. Many of the works at ACCA take time to be with – they’re highly conceptual, and a visual description isn’t really sufficient to get to the crux of what the show and the program is about. Best to go and spend time with them yourself. Partner spaces include Abbotsford Convent, Arts Project Australia, Blak Dot Gallery, Bus Projects, Chunky Move, Footscray Community Arts, Metro Tunnel Creative Program and Testing Grounds (supported by City of Melbourne).

December 4 to March 20 at ACCA, 111 Sturt Street, Southbank. Free.

Alana Kushnir is the founder of Guest Club, a membership network for art lovers and collectors.