Sugar Spin: You, Me, Art and Everything @ GOMA


This summer GOMA turns 10 and until April it is celebrating this milestone with an explosion of colour and masterful eccentricity as it opens its doors and adorns its every being with over 250 large-scale works from renowned artists – both local and international.  This impressive collection, titled Sugar Spin, is not just a celebration of the gallery reaching double digits but also a gift to the people of Brisbane – one that I implore you to accept eagerly with both hands and share with those you love.

Sugar Spin


Spin me around until I am dizzy.  Until all I know is a blur

Until the world comes into focus in a different shape

Spin me stories as a spider would a web

Spin me a sugar high.  A feast of everything I ever wanted and more

Aptly named Sugar Spin, the gallery’s main exhibition is a “reflection on a time when truth is spun and sugar coated, attention spans are short, trust is fractured, and we are eager for one sugar hit after another”.

Created to play with ideas of abundance, dizziness and disorientation in five contrasting chapters (sweetmelt, blackwater, treasure, cosmos and soaring), the exhibition explores light, space, architecture and the senses.  From brand new immersive works to large scale visitor favourites, Sugar Spin reflects our complex connections to the natural world with an array of colours, sensations and spinning delights.

From the moment you step through the wide, glass doors of the gallery this exhibition will entice you, as glimpses of the greatness that lies within become immediately apparent.  While a wall to your left offering small windows that hold miniature, sugar-sweet worlds may captivate you initially, it will be the view straight ahead that will eventually demand your attention and draw you further into the gallery.  Indeed, whether it is the twin steel slides that spin seductively from the top floor to the ground, filling the void ahead, or the splash of brightly coloured fur that creeps from around a corner high up on the wall it is clear from the get go that things are about to get interesting.

Interesting is definitely an understatement though.  Sugar spin is spread generously over two levels (1 and 3) both of which are overflowing with engaging, immersive and interactive artistic creations.  Some are new, some are old favourites, all are incredible and thought provoking.  With most of the pieces being room-sized, the gallery has afforded the artists a full canvas to impress with – and impress they do.

An Exhibition for the Whole Family


I recently had the opportunity to visit the gallery with my family and one thing that impressed me the most was how interactive and child-friendly many of the exhibits were.  Although in most cases the work is to be admired rather than touched there are so many opportunities for our Brisbane Kids to actually reach out and play or immerse themselves within the works.

One of the highlights for my children was the giant steel Left / Right Slide by Carsten Höller.  Be warned, if your child is over 110cm then you may find yourself spending a lot of time going up and down the lifts as your kids spiral down the see-through slides from the top floor to the bottom.  Not just for children, during my visit there were just as many (if not more) adults arriving gleefully at its base, giant smiles a permanant fixture once landing on the gallery floor.

It’s not just the slides that your children will want to linger on though.  Both The cubic structural evolution project by Olafur Eliasson on level 3 (think a table that is metres long and overflowing with only white Lego pieces ready to build with) and Noon-Nom by Pinaree Sanpitak on level 1 (a sea of mult-coloured bean bags to weave between and climb over) were highlights for my younger kids and spaces I actually was able to sit down in while they played.  Enchanted Spaces granted them an exercise in tracing and, of course, the Nervescape creation of synthetic hair mounds that literally climb the walls made for a great deal of hilarity and fun as they trialed their own new florescent hair styles.


Of course, with so much excitement and wonder for them to be had in the main gallery area you would be forgiven if you completely forgot about the Children’s Art Centre that sits at the back of GOMA on level 1.  Nervescape creator, Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir (aka Shoppy) has designed the Mirror Mirror space where children can go and experiment with creating their own unique wig and hone their hair weaving skills.

With all that Sugar Spin has to offer alongside other works that already exist within the gallery, you really need to visit GOMA in person to appreciate the true magnitude and beauty of its current contents.  Below I have highlighted 10 creations that really stood out to my family and that we loved….what would be your favourites?

1. Nervescape by Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir


Commissioned by the gallery, Nervescape is Shoppy’s first work in Australia and the largest in the world to date.  Her teetering mound of synthetic hair starts from layered clumps on the ground floor that continue up the wall, climbing high and reaching almost to the gallery’s 3rd floor ceiling before disappearing off around a corner.  Designed to reflect her fascination with hair and her belief that the way we style it is one of our greatest reflections of self-expression, this exhibition is not easy to miss. My children loved standing beneath different coloured clumps and trialling new looks and couldn’t resist reaching out and stroking the soft mounds.

Watch a cool video of it being installed here:

2. In bed by Ron Mueck


From the newly commissioned to a returning crowd favourite. I actually had the pleasure of once seeing the full Ron Mueck exhibition and yet, still, In Bed left me speechless.  This giant scale sculpture of a woman laying contemplative in bed is mesmerising not just for its size but for its up-close detail as well.  My daughter stood very still and very close to the structure for a long time, completely awestruck.

3. from here to ear (v.13) 2010 by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot


We almost missed this incredible creation by musician and artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot as it was tucked away in a corner space on the upper level of the gallery.  If you go, source it out, as it is spellbinding.  With a limited number of visitors allowed in the room at one time Boursier-Mougenot’s three columns constructed of suspended and intertwined coathangers is masterful.  Both a visual and audio treat, haunting music plays in the background as 24 small, live finches fly between them.  The kids will love it!

4. Left/Right Slide by Carsten Höller


Very little needs to be said about this except that the return of this favourite is a sure winner for all who ride it.  Head to the heights of level 3, grab a mat, brace yourself and prepare to be exhilarated.  The somewhat unrestricted squeals of delight echoing throughout the quiet gallery spaces is contagious.

5. The cubic structural evolution project by Olafur Eliasson


Anyone with a Lego-loving child (which is pretty much EVERYONE) will love The cubic structural evolution project.  Metres upon metres of pure, white Lego fun is there to be both played with and admired.  With our great Brisbane cityscape view behind it, grab a bench space and see what creation you can be inspired to add to the display.

6. Noon-Nom by Pinaree Sanpitak


Ok, this one was an absolute favourite with the kids.  Here guests are invited to lie, weave, jump and play within a sea of multi-coloured beanbags designed to depict the nurturing and comforting breast stupas.

7. Enchanted Spaces by Nusra Latif Qureshi


This small extension from the Children’s Art Gallery can be found just outside the lifts on level 3 and is an exercise in tracing that kids will enjoy.  Choose between four different templates and use the outlines of the animals on the light table to draw your own unique image.

8. Heard by Nick Cave


Whilst this is one of the exhibitions that you are not allowed to touch, I guarantee you will still spend a fair amount of time here.  Visitors are welcome to walk in and around the colourful herd of sculptured horses as they are seemingly brought to life by the visual dancers and music on the screen behind them.

9. Treasure by Lee Mingwei


This is a hauntingly beautiful installation where people are invited to write on a piece of paper their own ‘treasure’.  A secret or something important to them.  Something they hold dear to them.  Once their have written it down and placed it (anonymously or not) in an envelope they can release it, tucking it into the wall of small sheer rooms to be shared with other visitors who come.  Be prepared, some are sad, some are funny, some are silly – all are an extension of and say something about the person who wrote them.

10. PixCell-Double Deer#4 by Kohei Nawa


Merging the real world with that of the digital, Nawa gives two real, taxidermied deers the feeling of being ‘pixelated’ by coating them with an outer surface of transparent glass and resin beads.  The effect is stunning and I admit a little sad as you peer through the beads to the animals that lie within.

Overall Comments

GOMA have created something very special with their 10 year anniversary exhibition and along with the Children’s Art Centre and existing works housed there I cannot recommend taking your family there enough.  The fact that they have gifted us with such a mesmerising, thought-provoking and interactive display that our children will also be fascinated by is a credit to those who dreamed it up.  Any project that opens its doors to children and in turn opens their hearts and minds to the world of art and self-expression should be applauded.  My only warning?  Make sure you allow yourself a good day for a visit – or, as it is free, maybe do it over a couple of days.  Kids will slow the process as they immerse themselves in it and no doubt you will want to wander slowly through it too.

HINT:  Its a great idea to go through Mirror Mirror at the Children’s Art Centre near the end or when the kid’s attention starts to wander.  It is a great space for them to run a little more freely in and focus on a task for a while.

The exhibition is free and open daily until April 17th.  If you do one thing for your family, plan a day trip to GOMA and help our city celebrate the 10 years of wonders it has brought us.


  • The Gallery of Modern Art is in the South Bank Precinct that you can reach by walking past the Museum, via the Art Gallery and State Library.
  • Entry is free.
  • Parking is available immediately underneath but because it is so popular (and shares with the State Library) you will most likely need to park under the museum which is only a short walk from GOMA. Obviously, there is lots of public transport to the Gallery of Modern Art if you prefer to make an adventure out of the journey.
  • When you walk into the Gallery of Modern Art you will be asked to store any backpacks in their cloakroom to protect artworks.
  • The Children’s Gallery is accessed by walking through the main doors of GOMA where you will be directed by their helpful staff. There are lifts for disabled access, pram users (and tired toddlers).
  • Remember that the gallery has many different rooms and sections.  Make sure you check out all three levels from one end to the other so that you don’t miss anything!
  • The main entry of GOMA opens out onto a grassy forecourt where you could eat a packed lunch or grab a bite at a nearby cafe. The most child-friendly and least fancy food options seem to be at the Museum where you can get anything from fruit through to hot chips and sandwiches.
  • You could get lost in the gift shop of the Gallery of Modern Art so make sure you check it out before you leave.

About the Author
Melanie Byers
In a previous life, Melanie threw the obligatory hat in the air on graduating with a degree in Communications, packed her bags and spent 15 years working for the film and television industry in London and Australia. Today Melanie has 3 children and is keen on adventure around Brisbane, The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Melanie has a passion for writing and a love for gathering and creating memories with her family – especially while her kids are so young.

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