Art Gallery of NSW will bring blockbuster exhibitions to Sydney in 2017.

The biggest drawcard is Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, the first time an exhibition devoted to these extraordinary, influential Dutch artists has been shown in Sydney.

Part of the annual Sydney International Arts Series, the exhibition includes 77 artworks from Rembrandt, Vermeer, Ruisdael and de Heem, whose work reflects a time of unprecedented wealth, maritime prowess and cultural enrichment in Holland.

Adman: Warhol Before Pop is equally compelling. It focuses on the period before the Campbell’s Soup Cans era normally associated with the American artist. The collaboration with the Andy Warhol Museum (in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) explores Warhol’s formative years in the ’50s working as a commercial illustrator, displaying the undeniable influence of Matisse, Cocteau, even Picasso. It features 300 objects, from rare drawings to personal memorabilia.

"The story of 1950s Warhol not only shows us the beginnings of his rise as a pop culture icon, but also reveals a lot about the worlds of art and advertising in the pre-Pop, pre-Mad Men era – an era that dramatically shifted the course of American popular culture,” says Nicholas Chambers, curator of Modern and Contemporary International Art at the AGNSW.

Other exhibitions of note include Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium – an exhibition that takes a fresh look at the artist through a selection of florals, still lifes and rare colour photographs displaying his controversial and powerful erotic imagery. There’s also an exhibition dedicated to noted contemporary Australian sculptor, installation and performance artist Mikala Dwyer; and a celebration of the Australian photographer Mervyn Bishop, whose 1975 photograph of Gough Whitlam pouring sand into the hand of Vincent Lingiari has become synonymous with the Aboriginal land-rights movement.

Previously announced programs include Making Modernism: O'Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith; John Olsen: The You Beaut Country and The National: New Australian Art, a biennial exhibition featuring 50 new works from emerging and mid-career Australian artists displayed across the Museum of Contemporary Art and Carriageworks.