GOMA Water Exhibition Review

If the idea of exploring an indoor riverbed or hanging out with animals by a cool watering hole is something you think your kids would enjoy, then you must check out the new GOMA exhibition, Water.

The Gallery of Modern Art, located at South Bank, is known for its incredible art installations, and Water will not disappoint. It is both remarkable in its construction and complex in its learning opportunities for kids around sustainability and water.

Water is a ticketed exhibition and there is a separate (but similarly themed) free exhibition just for kids called, Below the Tideline.


As you enter the Water exhibition you will pass by a midden which is fenced off with a low rope. A midden is a word used to describe a pile of shells but significantly, shells that were used as food by Indigenous cultures. As a symbol, it is a powerful reminder of how important water was and is to people; not just for drinking, but as a source of food and as a vital resource in general. This is where the conversation begins. 

midden pile shells goma

Megan Cope, Quandamooka People, Australia b.1982/ RE FORMATION 2019

The Fact of Matter

The central gallery opens with a dramatic display of hanging rings at different heights (William Forsythe The Fact of Matter, 2009). This participatory artwork offers visitors, including kids over 110cm in height, the opportunity to enjoy  swinging on the rings and reflect on their weight and movement (their impact), as they move throughout the world. 

swinging rings goma

William Forsythe The Fact of Matter, 2009


At the end of the Long Gallery is a large freezer filled with an oversized permanent snowman. He’s located right against the windows overlooking our city, so it’s quite an impressive juxtaposition between our subtropical surrounds and this icy sculpture.

goma water snowman

Peter Fischli, David Weiss Heritage 1987/2016

Also on this side of the gallery is Cai Guo-Qiang’s Heritage. It’s an astonishing installation, and Brisbane Kids will enjoy trying to identify all the different animals from all over the world. There is a mix of predators and prey, and creatures from all continents are represented. The conversation with children extends into the realisation that animals all need to drink water, just as we do. 

animal feeding waterhole goma

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Waterhole


One of the highlights of the Water exhibition is Riverbed. Seeing it for the first time is an experience. When you walk into this enormous room in the heart of the gallery, filled with a cascade of pebbles and stones, you can be forgiven for not quite being able to explain how this makes you feel. 

An ode, Riverbed, entices you to enter and climb, exploring the vast (but confined) space.  There’s a narrow but constant stream of water snaking down the gentle slope.

Kids are able to move the stones and rocks and interact with the water of the Riverbed, although parents will need to supervise activity to ensure it is gentle and respectful.

The installation brings together a built environment and natural elements and is designed to delight and amaze. It’s incredibly inviting, and Brisbane Kids will love exploring Riverbed and following the water up to its source at the top of the slope and back down again. 

child on indoor riverbed goma

Olafur Eliasson, Denmark b.1967 Riverbed

Other Highlights

There are connected, dimly lit galleries to the right of the Long Gallery of GOMA that are filled with dozens of artworks, including film pieces, photographs, enormous woven mats, bubble sculptures, traditional Indigenous Australian artworks, and giant transparent spheres suspended in ropes – each one is connected to the central theme of water as a finite and vital resource. 

Water is at GOMA until  26th April 2020. This is a ticketed event. Family packages are available, and kids under 5 years are free.

Find out about tickets here

water sculpture goma

Below the Tideline

If this is your first time visiting GOMA, you may not be aware that there is a dedicated children’s space on the lower floor. The Children’s Art Centre  is free to enter and the activities and art usually coincide with the major works featuring in the main gallery.

kids craft goma

Below the Tideline is a space for families to explore conservation issues related to the ocean. There are impressive Ghost Net Sculptures as examples of ocean pollution peppered throughout the entry to the Children’s Art Centre . Your kids will have the chance to explore the impact of human activity on our ocean environments. 

There are hands-on drawing activities, the opportunity for kids to make their own piece of coral, and an interactive animation activity centered around ocean conservation. 

ghost nets goma

Below the Tide Line’ has been developed in collaboration with Erub Arts, Marion Gaemers and Lynnette Griffiths.

Is it family-friendly? 

There are over 40 different artworks and installations, large and small, throughout the Water exhibition at GOMA. Irrespective of its interactiveness, an art gallery is still a place deserved of respect and this is a wonderful exhibition to introduce your kids to the world of art and culture. 

There are ropes to protect some of the artworks and it’s an opportunity to talk to your kids about why and the how. There are also parts of the exhibition that are interactive and, again, this is such a great chance to talk to your kids about how this, even if it feels like play, is art, and what that could mean. 

The dedicated Children’s Art Centre  downstairs is aimed at families, but there is still a need to supervise little hands to keep them off the artworks. That said, it is all about kids being hands-on with activities and it is a safe and inclusive area for little ones (and big ones) to explore their creative side and reflect on their experience. 

Below the Tideline is at GOMA from 7th December 2019 to 3rd May 2020. This is a free event.

Event details

Head to the GOMA Website for more information on the Water exhibition.

Location: Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Stanley Place, South Brisbane, Queensland, 4101, Australia.

Getting there: South Brisbane Train Station is just a short walk away. You can also park underneath the Cultural Centre in one of three carparks, which you find out more about here.

Other things nearby: GOMA is located next to the State Library of Queensland, and is a short walk to the Queensland Museum and South Bank. 


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