The worlds of art and music have long been interconnected. Keith Haring was known to paint with a stereo playing loud rap music close to his ear, and Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, who was also a musician, gave his works musical titles.

Every two years these worlds merge at Art of Music, a charity auction held at the Art Gallery of NSW. The event raises money for Nordoff Robbins, an international organisation that provides clinical music therapy and community programs to vulnerable people.

The event, founded by Aria award-winning singer-songwriter Jenny Morris, invites some of the biggest names in the Australian art world to contribute an original work inspired by a song, musical artist, or piece of music. This year’s line-up of artists includes Nicholas Harding, Guy Maestri and Laura Jones.

“Art and music have always been connected for me,” Morris tells Broadsheet. “My intention for this art auction event is to present as many creative disciplines, styles and price ranges as possible, that will appeal not only to seasoned collectors, but which [also] will whet the appetites of beginner collectors.”

This year Tim Minchin, Kate Ceberano and PJ Harding will all perform at the event. R&B singer-songwriter Ngaiire will also perform her song Fall Into My Arms, which artist Laura Jones chose as the inspiration for her work.

“Art of Music was postponed because of the pandemic so I chose the piece during lockdown,” Jones tells Broadsheet. “I found it so comforting at the time. Jenny introduced me to Ngaiire’s music and once I had chosen the song I listened to it about 500 times. There were lots of little hints in that song that spoke to me. I’ve done a painting with drooping flowers inspired by that falling feeling you get from listening to the song.”

Broadsheet spoke to Morris and some of the artists featured in this year’s Art of Music to find out where they go to see live music in Sydney.

Jenny Morris – The Studio, Sydney Opera House; The Brass Monkey, Cronulla
I’ve always looked at The Studio as being the naughty, subversive child within the Opera House. Art of Music had a live iteration at The Studio a few times. I gathered performers to do renditions of the songs that had inspired some of the artworks. We had Jimmy Barnes, PJ Harding, Megan Washington, Katie Noonan, the Gondwana Children’s Choir singing Nick Cave, Tim Finn, Neil Finn and Dave Mason. Half the reason I managed to get all these amazing artists to be in the line-up was the venue. Who doesn’t want to play on such a stage? It has a very cosy atmosphere but speaks of worldly wisdom – the wise knowingness that comes from having your walls stretched and your roof blown off by burlesque and cabaret acts like Meow Meow, and circus shows that make your eyes water.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Brass Monkey, a sweet little family-run venue in Cronulla. They feed you and it’s all home-grown and home-cooked Lebanese food. The people who go there are devout fans. It’s the kind of place that attracts that kind of loyalty. And the artists know that people who turn up to those shows are the dyed-in-the-wool fans who get their tickets early, know all the songs and really appreciate you turning up. It’s a cosy and bespoke music venue with a small stage where it’s all about the music – and the food.

Tim MinchinThe Old Fitz, Woolloomooloo
One of Sydney’s great hidden secrets is The Old Fitz in Woolloomooloo. A tiny theatre run by Red Line Productions out of the basement of the Old Fitzroy Hotel, it seats only about 60 people, yet its boards have felt the fearsome footfall of some of Australia’s most extraordinary talent. For a fraction of the price of a ticket to the Opera House or a commercial musical, you can see extraordinary performers doing world-class work, so close that you catch every eyelid flicker and hear every breath. Theatre, at its best, can be an unbelievably emotionally transportive experience, and nothing transports you more than a visceral experience in a small space.

I also have a personal attachment to the place. In 2004 – along with a dozen strangers who became my dearest friends – I helped put together a musical called This Blasted Earth. It was just months before my show Dark Side appeared at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and although it was my solo show that altered the trajectory of my career in the short term, our little unprofitable musical, held together with gaffer tape and oft-wavering self-belief, had perhaps a more profound impact on what I value as an artist.

Leila JeffreysThe Crow Bar, Leichhardt; The Enmore Theatre, Enmore; Lazy Bones, Marrickville
I’ve seen some amazing gigs at The Crow Bar. From Rocket Science right through to Neptune Power Federation – an incredible combination of humour, theatrics and music.

The Enmore Theatre has held some magic moments – Gillian Welch still being one of my favourite gigs.

More locally, Lazy Bones in Marrickville is a stellar venue. From a farewell gig for The City Lights right through to my son’s primary school music night [it’s a] local venue for local people.

Alex SetonFactory Theatre, Marrickville
The Factory Theatre in Marrickville by a long shot. As a long-time inner-westie, I’ve been to so many brilliant gigs there, [including] international acts like Jeff Tweedy, Parquet Courts, Cate le Bon, James Blake, even a secret Beck concert. They all stand out in my memory. I’ve seen lots of local bands, and some friends, on their stages, too. That local content is part of The Factory’s strength. To have those “Wow! I didn’t know we did that here!” moments time and time again.

I think the real secret sauce of the venue is the courtyard. To gather and chat with your friends before heading inside, or to recap after an unbelievable concert with strangers who can’t wait to talk over what we’ve just experienced. If you’re lucky you can even have a beer with the performers…

Holly GreenwoodThe Great Club, Marrickville
I really like seeing music at pubs and in intimate spaces. I recently went to see Grace Cummings at The Great Club in Marrickville. That was so beautiful and intimate. It’s fairly small and is a very low-key setting. They have comedy nights, too. When musicians play live there you feel very close to the artists and it has that real pub feel. Grace Cummings has this incredible voice so it was so nice to be up close and personal.

Laura Jones – Enmore Theatre, Enmore; Lazy Bones, Marrickville; Restaurant Hubert, CBD
I saw Becky Lucas do her comedy show at The Enmore recently and it was just so great to see crowds again. There were people streaming down Enmore Road, getting dinner and heading up to the theatre. It’s such a buzz.

I had a studio across the road from Lazy Bones for about five years so my studio mates and I would often head over there and listen to whoever was playing. We would also go to The Factory Theatre a lot too. My studio is in Darlinghurst now, so the last live music I saw was jazz at Hubert.

Art of Music 2022 will be held on June 25 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

artofmusic.com.au