Art and about in Sydney

By Graham Reid

Graham Reid offers a guide for a day of sculpture, galleries and good eating in central Sydney.

An exhibition of 150 of Picasso's works is on at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until Marck 25. Photo / Tourism NSW
An exhibition of 150 of Picasso's works is on at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until Marck 25. Photo / Tourism NSW

We know Sydney is for shopping. But it's also a city that celebrates the arts - a staging of the opera La Traviata on a purpose-built stage on the harbour from March 24 is the city's latest dramatic initiative (see our competition on page 2 to win a trip there). Whether you're heading to Sydney for that event, or just for a holiday, you can have an "arty day out" anytime.

Morning

After breakfast somewhere down by Circular Quay or on The Rocks watching others hurrying to work, amble around the foreshore past the Museum of Contemporary Art and under the Harbour Bridge which opened 80 years ago (try counting the rivets, six million apparently). Around the other side on Hickson Rd you reach Walsh Bay with its handsomely renovated sheds on piers where groups like the Sydney Dance and Sydney Theatre companies are located. Just past the Sebel Pier One hotel (pop your nose into the lobby for a look, it's impressive) you'll see the sign "Artwork ahead".

And it is.

Around Walsh Bay you can take a sculpture walk where half a dozen striking pieces will grab your attention, starting with Jimmie Durham's Still Life with Stone and Car in the centre of the roundabout. As with the cars at Cadillac Ranch in Texas, graffiti artists and scribblers are constantly changing the look of the piece.

You can pick up a guide to the sculpture walk in the office at the end of nearby Pier 4/5 (grab a copy of the Historic Walk brochure as well and combine the two) and make the time to amble along the piers for spectacular views of the harbour. Phil Price's constantly changing wind sculpture Tri is at the end of Pier 8/9.

Don't miss the office of Transfield Services either on the same pier (behind the piece by Diego Latella on your map). Their lobby, open to the public, is stacked with award-winning cutting-edge sculpture, like Richard Goodwin's Co-isolated slave where an old tricycle carries an upturned state-of-the-art motorbike.

Give yourself at least 90 minutes of strolling and looking - there are plenty of coffee stops if you wish to just take in the views - and make sure you see Brett Whitely's Black Totem II at the top of a stairway leading to Kent St directly opposite Michael Snape's industrial abstract The Change which you can't miss. It's right there on the footpath near Pier 8/9.

Lunch

The award-winning Mediterranean-style Cafe Sopra at Fratelli's Fresh on Hickson St is highly recommended for a refreshing lunch with delightful wine, but you may wish for something more . . . Australian?

If so, retrace your steps a little then head up the hill on Lower Fort St towards Cumberland St. On the way you'll pass the historic Harbour View Hotel, further around The Glenmore Hotel (with a rooftop bar with 180 degree harbour views) before you reach The Australian - famous for its pizzas and Scharer's lager, a crisp Bavarian-style brew.

Or you could catch a cab from Walsh Bay and head for Danks St in Waterloo for lunch at the sophisticated but casual Danks Street Depot where the menu changes daily.

Afternoon

The advantage of heading to Danks St is that within fewer than five minutes walk from your lunch table are almost a dozen galleries, including the gallery of Aboriginal And Pacific Art, the Conny Dietzschold Gallery and the Sydney Metropolitan Gallery.

Across the road is the handsome but controversial Agathon Galleries which specialises in Aboriginal art. It's controversial because it deals directly with artists in communities rather than following protocols, which other galleries observe.

Or, of course, you simply go for the big one: the Art Gallery of New South Wales which has, until March 25, an exhibition of 150 works by Picasso in addition to the exceptional Aboriginal works in its permanent collection.

Dinner

Not had your fill of art yet but have an appetite after all that walking and looking? Then you need Lucio's Italian Restaurant in Windsor St, Paddington, where your host Lucio Galletto offers elegant but family-style dining, excellent wine from his home region of Liguria . . . and the walls are covered by paintings donated by artists he has supported, or with works he has bought. Amazing.

His book, Soffritto: A Delicious Ligurian Memoir, for sale at the desk is worth picking up. It tells a great family history, with recipes.

And then?

After a day of exercise, fine art and food you deserve a treat.

Go to Spice Temple (through a discreet door to the left of the entrance to the famous Rockpool restaurant, on Bligh St in the CBD) for a late-night cocktail. The Rooster comes recommended.

And why here?

Aside from the obvious attraction of a hideaway room with a good ambience, there isn't a piece of art on the walls.

Believe me, by this time you'll appreciate their absence.

Sydney's top 5

Jodi Melville of Howick Flight Centre used to live in Manly and shares her top tips on places to go and things to do in Sydney.

Must see bar: Ivy Bar in the city centre is one of the most stunning bars in Sydney, you won't regret having a cocktail or two here.

Must eat pie: Try the bacon, mince and cheese pie at Hamlets pies in Manly, only a 30 minute ferry ride from the city centre.

Must visit restaurant: Pancakes on the Rocks in Darling Harbour. I recommend having the Monte Cristo crepe. Delicious and open 24 hours.

Must go shopping: At Chatswood Shopping Centre on the north shore, so many stores and sales to choose from.

Must walk: From Bondi to Coogee Beach - the best way to get some exercise and enjoy stunning views of the coastline.

For more information on Sydney contact Jodi and the team at Howick Flight Centre on 0800 427 555.

Traveller's tips

Getting there: Qantas offers daily services to Sydney from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Drinks, food and entertainment are included with every seat on Qantas operated flights. For the latest airfares visit qantas.com, call Qantas on 0800 767 400, or contact your travel agent.

For more info:

* Click here for an interactive map of Walsh Bay
* Cafe Sopra
* Danks St Depot
* Danks St Galleries
* Art GalleryNSW
* Lucio's Italian Restaurant
* Spice Temple

* Graham Reid travelled to Sydney courtesy of Tourism Australia, Destination New South Wales and Qantas.

Find out more at Australia.com

- Herald on Sunday

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