A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that one of my favourite things to do when I have a day to myself is go to the Art Gallery of NSW. It’s a ritual that I have been following since my high school days, back when the café sold soggy focaccias and mugaccinos. Fast forward to now and it’s a much grander affair and that’s great because my life is a much grander affair. True story.
Seeing as it’s my happy place, here’s my list for the best way to experience the AGNSW. Follow these steps to get the most out of your next ‘me’ day. No focaccias allowed.
1. WALK THERE
I mean, you don’t have to walk all the way there from your doorstep, but do take a stroll from the train or bus or nearby suburb. Why? Well, that’s the best way to enjoy the location of the gallery. Depending on which direction you come from you will get to enjoy either St. Mary’s Cathedral, Woolloomooloo wharf, Lady Macquarie’s Chair, Sydney Botanic Gardens, The Domain, or Hyde Park. It’s literally surrounded by Sydney’s best spots. The gardens around the Gallery are dotted with many a pretty bench to sit at for a spell and soak up the glorious Sydneyness of it all.
2. SIT ON THE STEPS
It is scientifically proven* that no matter what time of the day you go to the Gallery, the beautiful sandstone steps and columns at the front entrance are bathed in the warmest most pure sunlight that will warm you up from the inside out, and help prepare you for the temperature controlled gallery interior. Perfect spot to watch the lunchtime exercise crew.
3. BRING A CARDIGAN
Take it from me, even a vigorous walk to the Gallery and a good half hour on the steps cannot warm you for long enough to get through the ground floor, let alone the entire Gallery. Half way through the first hour your teeth will start chattering loudly enough to get you a few dirty looks from the serious art contemplators. Trust me, even if it’s 40 degrees outside, bring a cardigan and don’t leave it in your bag when you check it in.
4. MAIN EXHIBITION FIRST
I always head straight to the main exhibition if it’s something I’m keen on because if I get too tired (it happens) or I’m in a hurry I could always visit the permanent exhibitions another time. Best way to find out what is on is to check their website. It costs about $20 to see these exhibitions and it is always worth it.
5. COFFEE BREAK
The café at the Gallery has had a much-needed facelift, and boy is it a good one. Good food, good coffee and they even have scones with jam and cream (perfect ‘me’ day food). Definitely have a pit stop between exhibitions because you’re worth it. And definitely sit outside in the courtyard, if you are not afraid of birds stealing your scones that is (you’ve been warned!).
6. PERMANENT EXHIBITIONS
There are so many Permanent exhibition spaces at the Gallery, I recommend choosing one or two to go through lest you wear yourself out! My favourites – the 19th Century art from Europe and Australia, and the 20 and 21st Australian art – are on the ground floor. There is so much more to choose from, find yourself a map at the front desk and see what takes your fancy.
7. LATE LUNCH
Matt Moran’s Chiswick restaurant is stunning and on the ground floor of the Gallery. Award winning deliciousness aside, it is the perfect spot for a beautiful view over Woolloomooloo Bay, a nice drop of wine and a well-earned rest after all that art and culture. Insert big happy sigh.
You can’t not stop in for a quick look at the Gallery shop! I always get a postcard from an exhibition I’ve seen, and there is such a great collection of books to look through.
What a seriously good day, right? You could follow up with a bit more art, or a bit more of a walk around the gallery’s surrounds and find yourself near the glittering harbour’s edge.
Or you could just call it a day…and damn good one at that.
All images via https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/