Debate has long raged among Aussies over which of their cities is the country's true capital of culture.
Team Melbourne and Team Sydney are looking over their shoulders as another candidate emerges – Brisbane, a serious contender thanks to an arts renaissance in recent years.
It has world-class galleries, theatres, museums and art spaces and attracts some of the biggest shows and artists in the world, as well as fostering local talent in visual and performing arts.
Chris Saines, the director of QAGOMA, the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, says: "We can move on from calling Brisbane the poor cousin of Melbourne and Sydney – it is a city that has really got its cultural act together."
When he decided to move to Brisbane from Melbourne in 1984 to take up a job at the then Queensland Art Gallery, it was suggested he might be making a big mistake.
"I was pretty much counselled against moving here," he admits. "I'm glad I didn't listen. This city has so much to offer."
Saines says Brisbane's rejuvenation can be traced back to 1982, when the Commonwealth Games spurred urban development. The 1988 World Expo again turned the spotlight on Brisbane and it was genius to transform the empty expo site on the banks of the Brisbane River into the parklands and cultural hub known as South Bank.
It includes the Queensland Cultural Centre, which consists of QAGOMA, the Queensland Museum, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and the State Library of Queensland, all within a few hundred metres of each other.
Cultural development has had a domino effect, with other galleries and venues springing up over the city, including the multi-arts centre the Brisbane Powerhouse, located in a decommissioned power station, opened in 2000. The city also has an annual international arts festival, The Brisbane Festival, which launched in 1996 and is held every September.
Saines missed much of the cultural blossoming of Brisbane because he moved to New Zealand in 1996 to be the director of the Auckland Art Gallery, a position he held for 17 years.
When he moved back in 2013 to take on his current role at QAGOMA, he was delighted to see how much the city had matured: "It's grown into a very international city that has so much to offer…not all that long ago, people came to Brisbane to transit to somewhere else – the north coast, the south coast, the Great Barrier Reef.
"They tended not to hang around for long. But now it has begun to consolidate as a major cultural destination in its own right and, if people are interested in the arts, there is plenty for them to stick around for."
One of the major changes in the years Saines was away was the introduction of the Gallery of Modern Art, opened in 2006.
"It really is an incredible facility that enables the city to play at a different level on a much bigger stage – and I'm not just saying that because I work here. It really has enabled things to happen in Brisbane that simply could not happen otherwise."
One of the outstanding exhibitions currently bringing an influx of visitors to the gallery is Gerhard Richter: The Life of Images. It's the first major Australian exhibition for Richter, the German considered by many to be the best living painter in the world, one of the most important artists of the 20th century.
Running at the same time is Life is the Heart of A Rainbow by acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
"Both artists have significant global reputations and to have the two of them sitting alongside each other at the same time in our gallery is a watershed moment for us."
Next year the gallery will show the works of Patricia Piccinini, an Australian artist whose exhibition in Brazil was the most visited in the world last year; it will also hold the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, a flagship exhibition held every three years since 1993.
John Kotzas, chief executive at the neighbouring Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), highlights the importance of the different attractions working in sync: "We'll go out for a beer together to talk things over. We're not a huge city so if we want to attract visitors we need to have a culture that offers a lot of different things to people."
QPAC, which had a $40m makeover five years ago, has four performance venues including a 2000-seat theatre. It hosts all the big touring musicals – upcoming shows include Mamma Mia, Aladdin and American Idiot, the musical based on the songs of punk band Green Day.
QPAC has also become known for bringing some of the world's top ballet companies, including the Bolshoi, Royal and Paris Opera Ballets, to Brisbane for exclusive seasons. Ballet aficionados make the trip to Brisbane specially to see them.
Kotzas adds: "If Brisbane wants to attract smart, interesting people here to live as well as visit, we need to offer smart, interesting entertainment options. That is something all of us here take very seriously. There have been a lot of changes since I first started at QPAC in 1989 and if people think Brisbane isn't sophisticated, they are in for a major shock."
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