Sydney’s summer blockbuster exhibitions are definitely worth a visit. Nude at the Art Gallery of NSW is a neat, chronological collection and includes bits and pieces from Picasso to Matisse and, astoundingly, Rodin’s epic marble sculpture The Kiss. Tatsuo Miyajima, Connect With Everything at the Museum of Contemporary Art is a rich survey of the Japanese artist’s mastery of LED light art and his fascination with time and fragility.

But once you’ve seen (and Instagrammed) these shows, it’s not over for art in Sydney. Here are some of this month’s smaller but equally compelling exhibitions in and around the city.

EXIT
Exit is based on an idea by French philosopher Paul Virilio. The piece was originally commissioned in 2008 by Cartier’s Paris-based contemporary art foundation and conceived by the New York architects behind The Highline – Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The 360-degree video piece is a feat in data conceptualisation. It compiles statistics from more than 100 sources such as UNESCO and the World Bank.

The data the piece uses was updated in 2015, and EXIT’s harrowing visualised truth is the staggering and unprecedented number of migrants leaving their homes for political, economic and environmental reasons. Graphics expose the consequences of drought, deforestation, displacement and the decimation of entire cultures. It’s a very literal interpretation of data as opposed to the more conceptual take on data-driven artwork, by Ryoji Ikeda, for example. This and the video’s constant tick-tick of ever-increasing devastation makes it all the more powerful.

On until March 25 at UNSW Galleries.
artdesign.unsw.edu.au

not an animal or a plant
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum in Australia – a vote to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as people. It also happens to be the year of Brisbane-based artist Vernon Ah Kee’s 50th birthday. The exhibition not an animal or a plant is a survey of his work from over 10 years. It weaves the history and language of colonisation with aspects of today’s culture.

Made up of of Ah Kee’s intricate and potent charcoal portraits, painting and text-based works, the collection is thought-provoking and challenging. It unravels overt and underlying racism in contemporary Australian society. Born in This Skin is an installation of vandalised cubical doors removed from Cockatoo Island only recently (they were there during the 2008 Sydney Biennale), Racial and misogynistic slurs are scrawled freely across each stall as a sickening image of a country’s deep-seated intolerance.

On until March 11 at NAS Gallery
nas.edu.au/place/gallery

The Beach
On the lighter and more interactive end is Brooklyn-based architecture and creative studio Snarkitecture’s colossal ball pit. Appearing as part of the Sydney Festival, The Beach is made up of 1.1 million white plastic balls and a number of of brightly coloured blow up swans, doughnuts and watermelon slices.

Co-founded by architect Alex Mustonen and artist Daniel Arsham, Snarkitecture’s practice is based on the territory between art and architecture. Installed in Barangaroo’s cavernous The Cutaway, The Beach compiles all of the nostalgic cues of summer without the scorching temperatures. Or sharks. Dive right in – it’s not shallow, and the balls are antimicrobial and recyclable, too. Leave your phone, wallet and keys on the shore, though. Snarkitecture reported lost items in the thousands at the last iteration of The Beach in Florida.

On until January 29 at The Cutaway, Barangaroo Reserve.
sydneyfestival.org.au/2017

Time, Light, Japan
As well as Nude, the Art Gallery of NSW is hosting a smaller, but equally captivating, collection of contemporary Japanese work from the 1990s until now called Time, Light, Japan. You can carry on your exploration of Tatsuo Miyajima with a towering piece by the artist titled Region no 126701-12700. From the gallery’s own collection, it is made up of some 300 light-emitting LED panels, each programmed to present numbers between one and 99. No moment is ever completed; because there are no zeros, there is no possibility of completion. Also on display is teamLab’s mesmerising floral video piece, Flowers and People – Gold. It’s being shown at the gallery for the first time.

Also currently at the AGNSW is Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, a series of striking video monologues written by philosophers, creatives, artists, architects and intellectuals, all spoken by Cate Blanchett. In the contemporary galleries is yes yes yes yes, a collection of graphic works from artists of the 1960s and ’70s, including a small series of works by Corita Kent.

Time, Light, Japan is on until April 30 at Art Gallery of NSW.
artgallery.nsw.gov.au