I'm a freelance writer, living in Melbourne. I enjoy uncovering hidden in plain sight gems.
Published August 27th 2017
I recently moved back from Darwin and my fondest memories were hanging out in their art galleries every 4-6 weeks. There is a dynamic, eclectic, contemporary, forward thinking arts scene in Darwin that is little known to the rest of Australia. There are also major artists that are little known outside of the Territory, but are known worldwide. It's rather embarrassing to realise that most Australians have little or no idea about these famous artists, yet visitors from overseas can reel off a list of these names that are mainly found in the NT.
My favourites are:
Readback Book Exchange 32 The Mall, Star Village, Darwin
Located on the Smith Street Mall this place is a gold mine. Here you can buy art, and get a secondhand book at the same time. Oftentimes there is a famous artist sitting outside on the Smith Street Mall, or upstairs painting. If you are lucky enough to be there when their schedules collide with yours, count your lucky stars. These artists are high in demand, and paint prolifically. The ladies who run the shop are fantastic, too. They are friendly, open and warm. They are very knowledgeable and know their way around the 'Dreamings', and what particular paintings mean. Plus they usually have a very personal connection to the artists. Certificates of authenticity are always provided on purchase. This place is a Darwin gem.
Mason Gallery 7/21 Cavanagh Street Darwin
This is a Darwin art institution. It has been family run for over 20 years. Their target market is different and a little more elitist. However the range of gifts that you can get it great, and the works on sale are exceptional. You mostly won't need to get your artwork separately mounted from here. They have a great range of once-off and unique jewellery, and a good range of books. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable too.
Mbantua Fine Art Gallery 2/30 Smith Street Mall
Utopia is probably the most famous region for Aboriginal art in Australia. If that is what you are after, this gallery is a mecca of exceptional Utopian gifts by a range of predominantly Utopian artists. The Christmas decorations are absolutely gorgeous, each one is bespoke and they have a range of modern gifts to match. Their biggest market is the Europeans, mainly Germans and french as they love the bright colours. It is also a great place to pick up properly copyrighted laptop cases, ipad cases etc where the artists actually do receive the royalties that they are rightly entitled to (unlike many 'Australian' souvenir shops with rip-offs of artist work used without proper permissions).
Outstation Gallery 8 Parap Place Parap
This place is a little tricky to find, but once you find the stairs you'll be glad. The gallery owner travels to remote communities and supports exceptional talent resulting in some superb artwork that can be expensive. Freighting these amazing artworks from these remote communities is pricey so it is reflected in the prices given for the art that is sold here. The gallery owner is very knowledgeable, and also quite friendly. The exhibitions change here every 6-8 weeks. It's a case of buy when you see it here.
The Northern Centre for Contemporary Art
Vimy Lane Parap
This place is a fantastic dynamic gallery space with a range of contemporary art that changes every 6 weeks. It is a relatively small space, but what they do fit in here is often thought-provoking, modern and superbly executed. If you weren't in Darwin, I dare say you'd think you were anywhere in London or New York, based on the lay-out of the gallery (except for the stifling heat outside, although it's always cool inside). Artworks are usually available for sale, but sometimes finding someone to buy it from can require a little patience.
What are you favourite art galleries? Please feel free to leave a comment below.