Sydney Festival exhibitions
Sydney in January is a delight, and the almost three-week Sydney Festival is integral to making the city so exciting at this time of the year.

As in previous years, there are a number of exhibitions that take artists outside of the gallery and into experimental spaces, and while many events are sold out or have a waiting list, these are our top picks for what’s still available (at time of publishing). Best thing: most are free.

Happening over 10 days from January 14 at the MCA is Australian artist Phuong Ngo’s Article 14.1 – an epic free performance that pays homage to his parents’ immigration from Vietnam by boat in 1981. Ngo will spend the time folding thousands of origami boats while recorded interviews with Vietnamese refugees are played. Not to be missed is the sunset boat-burning ceremony on January 23, which will bring the mammoth performance to a poignant close, and honour those lost at sea.

Urban Theatre Projects brings its Blak Box sonic installation to Blacktown, in Sydney’s west, from January 9 to February 2. The show happens in a surround-sound cube filled with the voices of Indigenous elders and future leaders from the area and fuses them with musical layers. The result is a unique storytelling experience that facilitates “deep listening”, a First Peoples’ concept based on stories, silence and the space in-between.

At Paddington’s Cement Fondu, dancer and choreographer Amrita Hepi premieres her newest video installation The Ropes alongside video works by Adrian Piper, an American conceptual artist and philosopher who tackled racism and the male-dominated conceptual art scene in the ’60s and ’70s. Together these women explore the power of the body to bridge cultural and racial divides. It’s showing January 11 to February 24.

The Beehive, by Sydney-based artist Zanny Begg, is a must for anyone with a penchant for true crime. This 33-minute video weaves fiction and documentary to explore the mystery behind the 1975 disappearance of journalist and anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen, who fought against the violent eviction of tenants on Victoria Street, Kings Cross. Begg worked with a mathematician to create an algorithm that reorders the video with each viewing. There are more than a thousand potential scenarios, and all offer different glimpses and interpretations of this infamous case. The free show is at the UNSW Galleries until February 23.

Also worth a look is online project 52 Artists 52 Actions, a yearlong Instagram project that engaged artists from Asia to bring urgent political issues to light. There’s also the first retrospective of contemporary Chinese artist Xiao Lu at Haymarket’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, from January 19 to March 24.

Sydney Festival runs from January 9 to 27. sydneyfestival.org.au.

The Ideal Home
This joint project between Penrith Regional Gallery and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences explores the plethora of experiences that constitute Australian home life. From the post-war affluence that saw housing become an increasingly commodified reflection of wealth and style, to the social and economic issues that are associated with Australian home life today.

This exhibition takes 70 furniture, design and household objects from the MAAS collection and presents them alongside a number of new commissions that reflect what the “ideal” Australian home is today, and asks wether or not that even exists.

The Ideal Home is on at Penrith Regional Gallery until March 24, 2019. penrithregionalgallery.com.au.

Borrowed Scenery
Artists identifying as female come to the forefront in this exhibition of more than 50 works taken from the Campbelltown City Collection. Expect big-name Aussies such as esteemed photography and video artist Tracey Moffatt, Indigenous artist Makinti Napanangka, a senior painter of the renowned Papunya Tula Artists, as well as Elisabeth Cummings, Joan Ross and a mix of ceramics, weaving, sculpture, paintings and prints.

Borrowed Scenery is showing at Campbelltown Arts Centre until March 10. c-a-c.com.au

Destination Sydney
Not one you can see in a day, Destination Sydney brings together three galleries to show the work of nine Australian artists who looked to the lush Sydney surrounds for inspiration.

There's Ethel Carrick Fox, Adrian Feint and Ken Done (Manly Art Gallery & Museum); Roy de Maistre, Robert Klippel & Michael Johnson (Mosman Art Gallery); Jeffrey Smart, Nicholas Harding and Wendy Sharpe (S.H. Ervin Gallery).

Destination Sydney is on at SH Ervin Gallery, Mosman Art Gallery and Manly Art Gallery & Museum until March 17. destinationsydneyexhibition.com.

Head out of town for these two exhibitions
Thanks to a donation from patrons Andrew and Hiroko Gwinnett, you can lose yourself in one of the magical Infinity Rooms created by globally influential artist Yayoi Kusama. Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia recently acquired Spirits Of The Pumpkins Descended Into The Heavens. In typical Kusama style, heaven is made up of yellow walls splattered with thousands of black dots and a tiny-mirrored peephole that reveals a field of multiplying black and yellow pumpkins.

While you’re there, take a peek into the enchanting world of the rebellious Pre-Raphaelites, a group of young 19th-century artists who defied the stylistic conventions of their time and produced a new kind of masterpiece – 40 of which are on a rare loan from London’s The Tate.

Spirits Of The Pumpkins Descended Into The Heavens is at the National Gallery of Australia indefinitely. Love & Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate is on until April 28. nga.gov.au.

Want more? Many of the exhibitions we included in our November arts wrap are still showing.