Brisbane’s legal precinct and the buildings around it have an impressive selection of public art, and is a great place to start your Brisbane art trail adventure.
At the corner of North Quay and Tank St, look on the façade of the residential Evolution Apartments. At 60 square metres and five storeys high, the Infinity Forest is a giant image of a towering forest that reflects the soaring skyscrapers surrounding it. Artist Carl Warner wanted to create a landscape of soaring hoop pines evocative of the riverine landscape that John Oxley would have encountered when he first sailed down the Brisbane River in 1823. The work was installed in 2008 and is made of 39 glass panels and ink jet.
Step inside the pedestrian arcade in Santos Place to view this colourful and intriguing artwork that uses repetition to amplify the effect of perspective. Austin said: “…the simple lines are affected by light, colour literally reflects upon itself and hopefully encourages reflection in others”. Made of powder coated aluminium and stainless steel, it was installed in 2009.
An installation in three parts, there are 200 hand-made rectangular porcelain pieces that sit in three timber grid frames running from the street through the foyer of 400 George St. The artwork explores the complexity of water infrastructure and need to pump water into a city, and how the ebbs and flows of water reflect our urban lives. It’s best to view this piece from Turbot St and within the foyer.
Dripping from the ceiling in the 400 George St lobby, this work imitates the growth of stalactites and stalagmites and if you look closer, you’ll see it’s constructed from more than 3000 aluminium saucepans and lids, biscuit tins, pudding bowls and other domestic objects. Artist Donna Marcus likes to explore the overlap of mechanical and organic structures.
Part of a series of work by the Brisbane-based artist, find these two colourful and geometric modernist pieces either side of the lobby lifts at 400 George St. Smith was inspired by the work of late artist Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the ‘found’ object and his views on art and life. He changed careers to become a professional chess player late in life and once said “while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists”.
In the heart of Brisbane’s legal precinct is the Brisbane Magistrates Court, and drawing in the eyes is Confluence; a large and dramatic sculpture to reflect the judicial experience. As part of the Queensland Government’s former Art Built-in Policy, artist Daniel Templeman created this work for the George Street forecourt. The work starts with a sense of calm, building in intensity towards the ‘obstacle’ before beating and returning to a resolved state.
Created by famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, it’s hard to miss the sea of bold steel and enamel eyes looking back at you. Sitting on the outside of the Supreme and District Courts Complex as ‘watchful eyes’, the artwork is symbolic of the transparency of judicial process going on inside.
Three pieces for three street frontages. At 275 George St, follow the pedestrian laneways to a central plaza to find this three-part series. Green used the concept of The City as a forest for inspiration: tall buildings are trees, laneways are the ‘understorey’. Husk, Kernel and Returning fill the laneways and represent organic matter falling from above as a larger-than-life seed pod. Husk is made of aluminium, while Kernel and Returning are recycled Western Australian Jarrah wood and steel.
One of Brisbane’s most iconic public art pieces, the artist’s sphere-shaped sculptures of different sizes are strewn throughout Reddacliff Place and Brisbane Square like a pack of marbles to animate the busy building. The balls vary in size from 1.3 metres to 2.6 metres in diameter and are made of aluminium kitchenware. Return after dark to see them lit up from inside.
One of The City’s most popular shopping spots, the façade of the Wintergarden is home to hundreds of metallic butterflies which. Spread across a surface area of 86 metres by 25 metres, the work incorporates 25,000 LED lights and comes to life using colour and light to mesmerise onlookers. During the day, the butterflies sparkle in the sunlight.
American artist Baile Oakes created this spiralling gold-coloured piece for World Expo '88. Built in Seattle, the large round sculpture represents the world and its balance with nature. If you’ve walked down Queen Street Mall, you’ve no doubt seen this sculpture!
It would be a shame not to meander The City’s Burnett Lane in search of creativity and culture. From planned artworks to unplanned street art, Brisbane’s oldest laneway will take some time to explore.
Covering the asphalt of Burnett Lane is a lime green plant motif, inspired by the surveyor the lane is named after – Charles Burnett. Follow Woods’ motif throughout the lane.
Around the same time in 2010, artist Natalie Billing also took inspiration from surveyor Charles Burnett, and used text work and painted scripts on the walls and garage doors to highlight parts of his life.
Created by local guerrilla and environmental artist Mace Robertson, the laneway’s smallest art piece is tiny red door – 45a Burnett Lane. Just a few inches tall, keep an eye out for this miniature artwork that brings a little magic and whimsy to the laneway.
A blue duck in a top hat? Flying birds? An owl in a tree? All throughout The City, the Blu Art Ninja has left his signature artwork for you to find. The secretive artist dresses as a ninja and climbs up to difficult and unexpected places to glue his bold graphic pieces.
Brisbane street artist Zookeeper painted a huge mural on the alleyway foyer of Hyatt Regency Brisbane. Taking inspiration from the hotel’s personality, the giant purple piece reads as “Great Minds Like a Think” and features a dog.
To find this artwork, simply look up. Artist Pamela Mei-Ling See created the floral illustrated artwork inspired by the symbolism in Chinese culture including poppies, chrysanthemum and clouds. The designs allows soft sunlight to filter through the glass atrium it’s affixed to.
More than 40 metres long and 3.8 metres high, this artwork fills the pedestrian walkway at the Rio Tinto building at 123 Albert St. Artist Dale Frank used colourful mosaic tiles to make abstract, geometric patterns in the laneway of this six-star Green Star rated building.
An organic and flowing sculpture of stainless steel appears to be mid-stride. The piece was made by artist Graham Lehmann in 1999 and moved here in 2001.
Art and architecture combine with this piece integrated into the 44-storey residential tower. The artwork explores the possibilities of refracting light, water and shade with a magnified photogram of water ripples on glass. Fittingly it veils a recreational area with a lap pool. At night, the atrium is lit up, illuminating the artwork to the street.
The building at 70 Mary Street features three architectural “fins” that draw the eye upward away from the clutter of the street. The organic forms reference 19th century architectural ornament and the ethnographic styles used in South Pacific, Chinese and Thai art.
Landlines is a three-storey artwork that was designed to visually connect a public carpark with newer commercial building in a coherent way. Marchant wrapped a large-scale depiction of a topographical map of mountains seen from The City, including Cunningham’s Gap and Main Range.
Spanning 44 metres long and three metres wide, Shades of Green is made of a series of panels suspended at entrance awning to the building. Assembled sequentially, the work is arranged to take the viewer on an (inverted) visual journey as they approach along Albert St.
The trail ends right near Brisbane’s oldest park, the City Botanic Gardens. Ancient trees, rainforest glades and exotic species are everywhere amid the QUT Gardens Point campus greenery. Laze on the lawns and wander by the riverfront. If you're still craving an art fix, pop into the QUT Art Museum for more art at one end of the gardens.
Still seeking inspiration? The Museum of Brisbane an incredible space which seamlessly merges gallery and museum. The annual roster of exhibitions and attractions focus on the evolving life of Brisbane, its histories and contemporary cultures. With a rotating artist-in-residence program and MOB Shop brimming with locally made artisan treasures, Museum of Brisbane is a must.
Museum of Brisbane also runs a Public Art Walking Tour, which reminds art-lovers to look up, down and all around. The private 90min tour, available by booking only, takes in The City’s iconic art stops alongside useful commentary from a Brisbane arts expert.