Art trail through Brisbane City - Visit Brisbane

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Follow this art trail through Brisbane City (and be rewarded with cocktails)

Brisbane City is filled with incredible public art – but not all of it is as obvious as, say, the silver metal ball sculptures in Brisbane Square. Hidden down laneways, in foyers or on the facades of buildings, artworks are all around us in the CBD, and we’re going to help you find them.

This 1.8 kilometre trail starts at Tank St near the Kurilpa Bridge and finishes in Albert St near the City Botanic Gardens. Overall, it should only take around an hour to complete – but we’ve added tips for our favourite spots to stop for refreshments, lunch or drinks along the way. 

What is the Contemporary Art and Architecture Public Art Trail?

Through council’s voluntary 'Percentage for Art' scheme, new developments have enriched the City with new, significant artworks for all to enjoy. The Queensland state government has a similar scheme. Usually the works are linked or integrated into the building design, foyer or facades – so it pays to know where to find these special pieces. To help scout them out, Brisbane City Council launched an official Contemporary Art and Architecture Public Art Trail. We’ve used it as the base of our art trail, adding extra cool street art pieces and key refreshment stops and tips along the way.

Art and the law precinct

Brisbane’s legal precinct and the buildings around it have an impressive selection of public art. Let’s kick off here.

Infinity Forest by Carl Warner | Evolution Apartments

At the corner of North Quay and Tank Street, look on the facade 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. The 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.

Once Again by Lincoln Austin | Santos Place

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.

Infiltration by Kenji Uranishi | 400 George St

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. The artwork explores the complexity of water infrastructure and need to pump water into a city. The ebbs and flows of water reflect our urban lives. It’s best to view this piece from Turbot St and within the foyer.

Trickle by Donna Marcus | 400 George St

Drip, drip, dripping down from the ceiling on a lobby floor, this work imitates the growth of stalactites and stalagmites. Look closer and you’ll see the work is constructed from more than 3000 aluminium saucepans, saucepan lids, biscuit tins, pudding bowls and other domestic objects. Marcus likes to explore the overlap of mechanical and organic structures.

Chessboard Painting #14 and #15 by Gemma Smith | 400 George St

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 Street. 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”.

Confluence by Daniel Templeman | Brisbane Magistrates Court, 363 George St

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.

The Eyes Are Singing Out by Yayoi Kusama | Supreme and District Courts Complex

It’s hard to miss the bold and cartoonish looking eyes plastered like wallpaper on the square, created by famous Japanese artist and living legend Yayoi Kusama. Sitting on the outside of the Supreme and District Courts Complex, the eyes are symbolic of the transparency of judicial process going on inside. 

You’ve earned a snack break

Phew, seven down, plenty more to go! You’ve finished checking out the cluster to the north-west of Brisbane’s CBD. It’s clearly time for a break. Over this way you can drop into Contessa or Frankie & George for a top flat white using small batch roasted coffee. Or duck up the escalators to reach classic and chic restaurant Public for lunch.

Sculptures around Reddacliff Place

Falling From Above – Husk, Kernel & Returning by Stuart Green | 275 George St

Three pieces for three street frontages. At 275 George Street, 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 & Returning are recycled Western Australian Jarrah wood and steel.

Steam by Donna Marcus | Brisbane Square, Reddacliff Place, 266 George St

After seeing one work by Marcus, you may instantly recognise this second series. The artist’s sphere-shaped sculptures of different sizes are strewn throughout the 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.

Gestation by Baile Oakes | Queen Street Mall

American artist Baile Oakes created this spiraling gold-coloured piece for World Expo '88. Created 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! 

Street art city in Burnett Lane

It would be a shame not to strut down 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. 

Symbols of an Extraordinary Life by artist Elizabeth Woods

Burnett Lane

You know you’ve reached it when you spot the brown and lime green plant motifs covering the asphalt. Woods was inspired by the surveyor the lane is named after. Use the artwork to guide you along the street.

Natalie Billing

Around the same time in 2010, artist Natalie Billing also took inspiration from surveyor Charles Burnett. She used text work and painted scripts on the walls and garage doors to highlight parts of his life.

45a Burnett Lane by Mace Robertson 

The laneway’s smallest artpiece is tiny red door – 45a Burnett Lane. Just a few inches tall, keep an eye out for this piece that brings a little magic and mystery to the lane. It is by local guerilla and environmental artist Mace Robertson

Various by Blu Art Xinja

A blue duck in a top hat? Flying birds? An owl in a tree? All throughout Brisbane 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 pieces.

Great Minds Like a Think by The Zookeeper | Backend Next Hotel

Brisbane street artist Zookeeper painted a huge mural on alleyway foyer of Next Hotel. Taking inspiration from the hotel’s personality, the giant purple piece reads “Great Minds Like a Think” and features a dog.

Thirsty? You’re in the right place

Street art and bars sit side-by-side in this historic back alleyway. Some of Brisbane’s top bars are along Burnett Lane, so if the hour calls for it – drop in for a refreshing drink from Brisbane’s best barkeeps. Follow our laneway bar crawl to find the best bars and snacks down the lane.

A is for Art and Albert Street

Across The Ocean Their Fragrances Intermingled by Pamela Mei-Leng See | Albert Lane

Juxtapose your visit to Brisbane’s oldest laneway with one of the newest. Albert Lane was created by the architects transforming 141 Queen St. To find this artwork, simply look up. The laneway has an outdoor feel, but the truth is that a sky high glass atrium makes it weatherproof. Artist See created a floral illustrated artwork inspired by the symbolism in Chinese culture including poppies, chrysanthemum and clouds. The designs allows soft sunlight to filter through. 

Charlie Cox 2011 by Dale Frank | 123 Albert St

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.

Pride by Graham Lehmann | Corner of Albert & Charlotte streets

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.

Waterography – Writing In Light With Water by Marian Drew | Charlotte Towers Building

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.

Efflorescence – Architectural Epiphyte #9 by Simeon Nelson | 70 Mary 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 by Jennifer Marchant | 53 Albert Street

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 Brisbane’s CBD, including Cunningham’s Gap and Main Range. 

Shades of Green by Peter Lewis | 42 Albert St

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 Street.

Knock-off time

You did it – you knocked over this art trail in no time. But the day is still young and Brisbane City has plenty to explore. Here are some ideas to continue your day out in the CBD.

Break for lunch (or dinner)

Kick on with a cheap lunch or dinner in the City. We’re pulled together 40 of our favourite spots and the dishes to eat for under $15. If, however, you’re keen to treat yourself to a long lunch with wine, exquisite views and top quality food, explore the best fine dining in Brisbane City here. 

Continue the art theme

Metro Arts

Still seeking inspiration? The end of the trail is not too far from Metro Arts on Edward St. This five storey arts complex has is all from – from studios to a cinema, artists in residence and art on walls. The gallery is open 9am-4pm during the week, and 2-4pm on Saturdays. Otherwise the Museum of Brisbane is like a gallery and museum crossed into one. The exhibitions are part creative, part historic and always interactive.

Aperitivo hour

This Italian tradition of a pre-dinner snack and spritz is gaining momentum in Brisbane. Try your luck at riverside restaurant Massimo, Ciao Papi! At Howard Smith Wharves, and rooftop pool bar Fiume. Alternatively, there are plenty of awesome bars with views to while away an afternoon or evening.

Dip into the lush gardens

The trail ends right near Brisbane’s oldest park, the City Botanic Gardens. Ancient trees, rainforest glades and exotic species are everywhere amid the Gardens Point greenery. Laze on the lawns and wander by the riverfront. At one end of the gardens, pop into the QUT Art Museum for more art.

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