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Gallery Guide: The Best Art Exhibitions in Canberra

Keen to explore Canberra’s thriving art scene? These are the best art exhibitions in Canberra to see this year.

National Gallery Australia

Unveiling Canberra's art scene, a subtle force in the cityscape, is akin to discovering a treasure trove. From national heavyweights to offbeat local gems, there's something for every art enthusiast amid the best art exhibitions in Canberra. In the upcoming months, Canberra's museums and galleries promise a visual feast, spotlighting the finest in Aussie, global, and First Nations art. 

Across the remainder of 2024, galleries and museums in Canberra will host numerous exhibitions that are well worth your time. For those eager to infuse a bit of culture into their routine, here's the essential list of must-see art exhibitions, making your artistic exploration of Canberra truly remarkable.

National Portrait Gallery Portrait Prize Finalist 'Shirley' by @franciscloakephotos

National Photographer Portrait Prize 2024

Planning ahead? You won't want to miss this one. Discover the essence of 2023 and 2024 in photo form at the National Portrait Gallery's iconic event, the National Photographic Portrait Prize. Celebrating its 17th year, this exhibition gives a snapshot of the year's essence through a kaleidoscope of identities, both communal and personal.

With 34 talented artists in the limelight, including Zoe Helene Karouzos and Paul Knight, prepare for visual storytelling at its finest. Opening in late June, this isn't your average exhibition; it's one of the most popular events on the calendar. And with a whopping $50,000 prize package up for grabs, it's bound to be a showcase of pure photographic magic.

Opens June 22nd, 2024

National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes Canberra

Paul Gauguin, Femmes de Tahiti 1891 | Image Credit: @nationalgalleryaus

Gaugin's World: Tōna Iho, Tōna Ao

Dive into the world of French Post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin at the National Gallery of Australia's upcoming major exhibition, Gauguin’s World: Tōna Iho, Tōna Ao. immerse yourself in Gauguin's iconic masterpieces, many crafted during his travels across the Pacific.

Curated by Henri Loyrette, former director of the Louvre Museum, this exhibition unveils fresh insights into Gauguin's life, influences, and lasting legacy. Explore the evolution of Gauguin's distinctive style through painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, and engage with contemporary debates surrounding Gauguin's controversial legacy. Coming in June 2024, it is set to be one of the biggest and best art exhibitions in Canberra.

June 29th - October 7th 2024

National Gallery of Australia, Parkes Place East, Parkes ACT

Shades of Light by Hannah Gason | Image Credit: Brenton McGeachie

Shades of Shadows

Discover a whole new world of light and shadow at the Canberra Museum and Gallery's Shades of Shadows exhibition. Glass artist Hannah Gason invites you on a journey where light dances with architectural forms, inspired by the visionary work of Frank Hinder.

Just like Hinder's iconic designs that shaped Canberra's landscape, Gason's pieces weave together harmony, movement, and luminosity. As you explore, watch how light transforms and plays tricks with glass, creating an enchanting display of shapes and textures, captivating the endless possibilities of light and glass. 

June 15th - November 17th, 2024

Canberra Museum and Gallery, Corner London Circuit and City Square, Canberra

Ralph Heimans AM at National Portrait Gallery

Ralph Heimans: Portrait. Power. Influence.

Immerse yourself in the captivating world of portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery exhibition of the powerful work of Australian artist Ralph Heimans. This exclusive showcase presents the remarkable works of the artist, renowned for capturing the essence of some of the world's most iconic figures, including HM Queen Mary of Denmark.

The exhibition is a testament to Heimans' talent and vision, offering a rare glimpse into his illustrious career. From acclaimed actors to political figures, Heimans' portraits reveal the stories and personalities behind the faces that shape our world. Don't miss this extraordinary journey through the power of art, for a very limited time.

Running until May 27th, 2024

National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes

Behind The Lines

Behind The Lines 2023

Since you're in the ACT, you may as well take the chance to chuckle and ponder at Behind the Lines 2023, where political satire takes centre stage. This vibrant exhibition spotlights the genius of Australian cartoonists, blending wit, insight, and a touch of mischief into every stroke.

From seasoned pros to rising stars, artists from all corners of Australia deliver a visual display of political cartoons, paintings, GIFs, sculptures and even some cheeky puppets. This year, 'All Fun and Games' is the name of the cartooning game, capturing the political shenanigans and parliamentary mishaps that kept headlines buzzing. See if you can spot a familiar face or two.

Running until late 2024

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

The Library National Film and Sound Archive | Image Credit:

The Library at NSFA

Step into The Library at the National Sound and Film Archive of Australia for a hefty and vibrant dose of pop culture. This Art-Deco gem is a fabulous celebration of all things quirky and cool, boasting over 280 treasures from the NFSA's extensive collection.

From vintage gadgets to childhood favourites, it's a nostalgic playground where history meets whimsy. Trace the evolution of tech through iconic items like the View-Master, iPod Shuffle and boombox, then go back in time with beloved TV classics and musical legends. With free admission and open seven days a week, you won't want to miss this - it's easily one of the best art exhibitions in Canberra!

Open 7 days a week, free entry

National Film and Sound Archive, McCoy Circuit, Acton

National Museum of Australia

Belonging: Stories from Far North Queensland

The National Museum of Australia continues to showcase Belonging: Stories from Far North Queensland, a collection of exciting works by First Nations artists that explore their relationship to Country.

As one of the best art exhibitions in Canberra, you'll find paintings, sculptures, multimedia pieces and more on display, created by a selection of veteran and rising artists from the region. This is the third and final exhibition in a series of three, so be sure to visit this incredible display before it's too late.

Until March 2025

National Museum of Australia, Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula, Canberra

After a full day of gallery-hopping through the best art exhibitions in Canberra, there’s nothing better than sitting down to a delicious meal and a well-earned drink. Check out our guides to the best restaurants in Canberra and the best bars in Canberra for all your eating and drinking needs.

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