Sydney knows how to put on a festival, with fireworks illuminating the sky and myriad events spread around the city. Since 2009, Vivid Sydney has been lighting up the capital with three weeks of art, music, talks and dazzling light installations, many of which are free.
Read on for a preview of what to expect at this highly anticipated winter bonanza, on tap from May 24 through June 15.
Vivid Sydney began as a way to showcase smart lighting, and these installations remain at the core of the festival 10 years later. There are more than 60 illuminating displays this year, all running throughout the event.
Every year, an international artist or group is commissioned to create light art to be projected on the whitewashed Sydney Opera House. This year’s piece, Austral Flora Ballet, is by American artist Andrew Thomas Huang, who — inspired by the color and texture of New South Wales’ native flora — worked with a choreographer, an animation studio and a dancer to put on this ravishing “ballet” of dancing abstract flowers.
Another not-to-be-missed display, Harmony is an interactive installation by Philippine artist Rod Tan. When Tan migrated to Australia, he was struck by how incredibly diverse Sydney is. To celebrate that harmonious multiculturalism, he worked with three Australian designers and built a tree with six colors and sounds (segments) that run from root to canopy.
These segments are meant to be played like instruments, each one producing a unique flash of sound and color. When all six segments are played together, the tree becomes fully ignited, with its flashes of pigment beautifully reflected on the surrounding live trees.
Talks, Workshops and Screenings
Vivid Sydney is positively packed with a roster of thought-provoking panels and seminars. Among the highlights is “The Space in Between” (June 12), a complimentary panel during which a group of artists and thinkers answers the question: What does it mean to be creative within a world where the future is increasingly shaped by technology? Sit in on a discussion covering the relationship between technology, art and engagement and what the future looks like for all.
A popular mainstay, Sydney Film Festival (June 4-15) is back for its 66th year with more than 250 films, among themAmazing Grace, a soulful, previously unreleased recording of a 1972 Aretha Franklin concert; Yuli, a visually rich biopic of Cuban ballet superstar Carlos Acosta; and the stirring, ruminativeAnthropocene: The Human Epoch, a look at the calamitous human impact on the earth.
Dig out your ’70s duds, dancing shoes and a bit of hairspray for Crazy Hair Kiddo Disco (June 8), a dance party for families. You’ll learn moves from pro dancers, play games and groove to DJ-spun disco hits.
Cheeky animated insects are the focus of French-Guadeloupean film Miniscule Mandibles from Far Away. Airing during Sydney Film Festival, the darling dialogue-free movie is about a little ladybird (ladybug) who finds himself on a tropical island with a handful of new friends, including a friendly praying mantis and a music-loving spider.
For something a little more abstract, inquisitive 9- to 12-year-olds can expand their minds at Creative Thinking and Inventing for Kids, a workshop at the Museum of Contemporary Art. During the two-hour class, children will partner up and brainstorm solutions to a problem, conceptualizing and building a prototype to solve it.
Where to Stay in Sydney
You’ll have an ideal home base at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, a scenic retreat in historic neighborhood The Rocks that’s just a 15-minute walk from the opera house.
Most of the posh property’s 471 rooms overlook the harbor, some with sweeping views of Vivid Sydney’s brilliant light installations. If you want to get a closer look, simply stroll over to Circular Quay, a huge transportation hub where you can catch a bus, train or ferry to almost anywhere in the city.
The hotel is also well-positioned for eating your way around Sydney — the top-notch concierge team can suggest a restaurant for any meal and cuisine — but you won’t have to go far to savor local flavor. The stellar skyscraper prides itself on utilizing native Australian ingredients in its restaurants. At hotel bar Grain, this includes Sydney Rock oysters and wines from every Australian state, like a fresh, light chardonnay from Hunter Valley, New South Wales.