After months of lockdown, Australia's cultural capital is beginning to bounce back.
What could be more Melbourne than spending long afternoons wandering the halls of the National Gallery of Victoria, or catching up with friends at a late-night show? From possum-fur paintings to Shakespeare under the stars, there's plenty to see and do this summer.
Here are some suggestions for what to put at the top of your holiday to-do list.
1. Walk through the massive, free exhibition at the NGV
Artist Jeff Koons with his sculpture at the National Gallery of Victoria.
The NGV Triennial is back. Featuring 86 projects from artists all over the world, there really should be something for everyone. Especially because a third of the collection is made up of new commissions and, as always, the works blend contemporary art with design and architecture.
Tickets are free and visitor numbers are capped. This means you should feel at ease even if this is your first gallery outing since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
2. Celebrate First Peoples' knowledge and art at the Melbourne Museum
Kelly Koumalatsos in her Queenscliff Studio.Credit:Mike Dugdale
Melbourne Museum is running a number of workshops and exhibitions this summer that are all about Indigenous peoples' relationship with animals, plants and country.
Of particular note is a new exhibition by Wergaia and Wemba Wemba artist Kelly Koumalatsos. And for those with children, the Museum is running a new holiday program called Milarri Summer. Participants will learn about the seasons according to local Indigenous people and take home their own native plant. More information can be found on the Museums Victoria website.
3. Watch live comedy in North Melbourne
Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann is just one of the comedians who’ll perform at the Comic’s Lounge in North Melbourne over the summer.Credit:Joe Armao
Victorians could do with a laugh this summer, especially because the 2020 Melbourne International Comedy Festival was cancelled.
Thankfully, the Comic's Lounge in North Melbourne is extending the silly season with a number of gigs to be held throughout January. A lot of shows feature mystery (but established) comedians testing new material. You can buy a sit-down meal or, if you prefer, try out one of the venues on Errol Street before or after the gig.
4. Revisit a Shakespeare classic under the stars
Theatre is back in Melbourne thanks to Shakespeare Under the Stars: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Speaking of comedy, Melburnians can relive 400-year old jokes this summer thanks to the Australian Shakespeare Company. The witty classic A Midsumnmer Night's Dream is showing throughout December and January at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Picturesque and COVID-safe. Seniors, students and children receive a discount. More information is available on the production’s website.
5. Look forward – as well as back – with the Melbourne Theatre Company
Eddie Perfect worked on one of the sold-out shows in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s summer series. Credit:Simon Schluter
If contemporary theatre is more your thing, the MTC has you covered. After months of cancelled shows the theatre is once again opening its doors with a series of special events planned for January and February.
New work under development is a common thread. There's a sneak-peek at a new musical, while The Black Woman of Gippsland is a reading of a new MTC Next Stage Commission. There's also a soldout 2020 retrospective called Well, That Happened that Eddie Perfect worked on (a little birdie tells us there might be more tickets released in the new year). More information and pricing is available on the MTC website.
6. Explore hilarious and heart-wrenching coming-of-age stories at the Immigration Museum
The Immigration Museum’s Becoming You exhibition. Credit:Ben Healley
Growing up is awkward. But does the process of becoming an adult ever end?
That's the question posed by the Immigration Museum’s current exhibition, Becoming You: An incomplete guide. Explore personal stories from more than 70 storytellers including drag queen Karen from Finance, AFL footballer Jason Johannisen and astrophysicist Alan Duffy.
7. See a film or live gig in Carlton Gardens
E.T. A simpler time.Credit:Universal Studios
Proving it isn't just the epicentre of picnics, White Night and Melbourne University exams, Carlton Gardens – or, more specifically, the Melbourne Museum Plaza – will host several live music performances and film screenings in January.
The musical acts span hip hop, RNB, contemporary gospel, Afrobeats and electronic music. Meanwhile film buffs can forget all about COVID-19 with '80s and '90s classics like E.T., Home Alone, Lion King and Back to the Future. Numbers are strictly limited so be sure to book online.
8. Tickle your senses at the Imaginaria installation
The Imaginaria at Docklands.
It isn't Melbourne's prettiest suburb, but Docklands is so much more than just the Melbourne Star. The riverside precinct has punched above its cultural weight in recent years with a library that boasts a 3D printer and its very own winter festival.
This summer is no different, with an all-ages sound and light playground open until the end of January. The project is the brainchild of Australian artist Nick Ennis, who brought his vision to life with a team of audiovisual artists, architects, musicians, sculptors and – yes – circus performers. Each session is a one-hour walkthrough experience.
9. Venture out to the Heide Museum of Modern Art
An artwork from the Joy Hester exhibition at the Heide Museum of Modern Art.Credit:JUSTIN SCHOONEMAN
It isn't as accessible as the NGV, but the Heide Museum of Modern Art ("Heide", as she is affectionately known to Melbourne's art buffs) is well worth the trip.
Located in Templestowe, the gallery is close to the popular Yarra Trail – meaning it's accessible by bike with plenty of trees and water to see along the way. A long but gentle bike ride might just be the perfect antidote to all that doomscrolling you’ve no doubt been doing throughout 2020.
10. Catch the return of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Melbourne’s Princess Theatre, home to the Australian production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Credit:Tim Carrafa
OK, so many Harry Potter fans have already seen parts one and two of this critically acclaimed stage production. But others chose to carefully bide their time. That is, until COVID came around and they didn't really have any choice at all.
After a 49-week hiatus, Melbourne's Princess Theatre will reopen on February 25. The cast will look a little different to its initial run. And if you're worried about the price tag, the theatre is running a promotion called "the Friday Forty" where a limited number of tickets sell for $40 each, which is quite the discount. Some would say … magical.
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