When I think of what makes Sydney beautiful, man made projects aren’t primarily what comes to mind. Cities like Paris, Rome, and Madrid are all shaped by the artists bred there, with their classic pieces and architecture defining the culture. In Sydney however, most of the beauty comes from its nature and landscapes. The way ecosystems interact with the city give it a unique charm, but its terms of physical art created by local artists, I haven’t had any standout experiences in Sydney. While I’m positive that some sort of art scene exists here, the encounters that have elicited awe and admiration from me have been with the natural resources, which is different from my experiences in most larger cities.
Last week, when I visited Melbourne, I got a taste of the metropolitan art culture that I’d been exposed to in most foreign cities. Melbourne felt like New York, Los Angeles, and London all wrapped into one, and its arts and culture reflected that. I’d been made well aware by Sydney locals of the long-standing rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. The general consensus seems to be that while Sydney definitely has the gorgeous beaches and historical landmarks, Melbourne is home to a much more vibrant arts scene. I’ve only been to one museum here in Sydney so far, and I found it was overshadowed by the botanical gardens right outside. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria stood out to me as one of my favorite museums I’ve ever visited. On display there was an equal balance of art from Australian and international artists. Guo Pei, the Chinese fashion designer behind Rihanna’s 2015 Met Gala gown had a collection on display that brought tears to my eyes. Every one of her dresses was so exquisitely detailed that the dresses served more as a canvas than an outfit. Another one of my favorite exhibits at the gallery was Australian artist Ron Mueck’s skull sculptures. Typically when human bones are recreated they’re meant to represent mortality and gloom, but in this exhibit the skulls seemed to communicate more that we are all the same. I really appreciated this concept and I found myself engrossed by the giant skull replicas.
Visiting this museum gave me a new perspective on Australian culture outside of the nature-centric beachy experience I’d grown accustomed to. This country is home to many talented and unique creators and I really enjoyed getting to see their pieces on display. Like any other country, different areas have different strengths. While I really do love the vast beaches and natural beauty of places like Sydney and Byron Bay, I’m also someone who loves to explore human creations and projects. While I’m no full blown expert, from my experience Melbourne has had the most to offer when it comes to arts and culture. I recommend that anyone staying in Sydney spends some time there to gain some variation. There’s so much that Australia has to offer culturally and I’m glad I got to experience a weekend away to see this more clearly.