Top 10 arts events commemorating the Anzacs

The must-see arts events paying tribute to the centenary of Gallipoli around Australia and the world.
Top 10 arts events commemorating the Anzacs

State Library of Queensland, Major Hughes and Captain Marks in their dugout, Gallipoli, 1915, Marks Family Papers collection

Between 2015-2018, Australians will be commemorating the Anzac Centenary, marking the 100 year anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915.

As an opportunity to pay respect and remember the Australians who sacrificed their lives and served in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping, the anniversary encompasses the celebration of the qualities of the Australian veteran: courage, sacrifice and mateship.


There is no shortage of events coming up to this weekend’s Anzac centenary commemorations, but if getting up at the crack of sunlight for a dawn service isn’t your calling, you can commemorate the Battle at Gallipoli with the arts. The following is a list of must-see visual arts exhibitions and installations, tribute concerts and community projects to pay respect to the Anzacs past and present. 

1. Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

Nomanslanding on Darling Harbour

Sydney, Scotland & Germany


Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Nomanslanding

A 120 metre floating artwork is to land in Darling Harbour, Sydney to commemorate the national centenary in a major international collaboration to tour Sydney, Scotland and Germany.

The collaborative venture is the work of five artists, Robyn Backen, Andre Dekker, Graham Eatough, Nigel Helyer and Jennifer Turpinbegan. It features a pair of floating extendable walkways, where visitors are invited to approach from opposing shores across the water. The dome structure is split in two and visitors peer across a 10 metre divide of water at each end, in a multi-sensory experience with whispering architecture forms creating resonance in sound and song.

Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority hosted the World Premiere of Nomanslanding on Darling Harbour on 2 April. To remain on display daily on Darling Harbour until 3 May, the art installation will then tour to the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow, Scotland and Germany’s Ruhrtriennale.

'This creative collaboration between Australian, British and German organisations represents a poignant partnership between historical foes, 100 years on from the war that reshaped the globe,' said Michael Cohen, Creative Producer at Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.

2 April - 3 May 2015

2. Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Anzac Tribute concert



Anzac Tribute Concert, Hamer Hall

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will present two commemorative Anzac Tribute Concert’s at Hamer Hall, on the eve of the centenary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli, on 23 and 24 April. The concerts will feature two of Beethoven’s works: the complete Incidental Music to Goethe’s Egmont and the Symphony No. 9, which will be performed under the guise of MSO Principal Guest Conductor Diego Matheuz.

MSO Managing Director André Gremillet said many associate Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the message of 'universal brotherhood', a sentiment that complements that of the Anzac commemorations. 'This tribute is set to be an important milestone on Melbourne’s event calendar,' said Mr Gremillet.

The Symphony No. 9 is seen by many as Western music’s greatest testament to historical change, Leonard Bernstein conducted the work in Berlin on Christmas Day 1989, soon after the fall of the Wall. Bernstein said at the time, ‘We cannot listen to this Ninth Symphony without emerging from it changed, enriched, encouraged’.

MSO Principal Guest Conductor Diego Matheuz agrees describing Beethoven’s Ninth as 'a pinnacle of musical achievement that leaves me simultaneously energised and humbled'.

23 & 24 April 2015 or (03) 9929 9600

3. Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)

Concrete exhibition


Igor Grubic, Monument 2014, video still, courtesy of the artist

First exhibited by the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) in 2014, Concrete is an exhibition encompassing a reflection upon memory, loss, destruction and trauma. From 29 August to 26 September 2015, the exhibition will be travelling to Turkey, in the second iteration of Concrete presented for Australia in Istanbul and will include Turkish artists for the first time.

MUMA Director, Charlotte Day said that the exhibit will unite Australia and Turkey in connection of shared experience. 'Concrete considers the function of monuments and ruins from poetic, material and geo-political perspectives. While maintaining our highly regarded series of thematic and discursive exhibitions, Concrete also represents MUMA's continued desire to connect Australian art and artists within an international context,’ said Day.

Works in the multi-media exhibition seek to locate the monumental in relation to longer cycles of construction, displacement and erasure of forms such as archaeology, geology and paleontology. Artists to be featured in the exhibit include Croatian artist Igor Grubic, Iraqi artist Jananne al-Ani and Australian artist James Tylor, with thematic works exploring the shifting politics of how memorials and monuments reflect a desire for commemoration, truth, honour and justice in national identity

29 August - 26 September 2015

4. Scenic Rim Regional Council

Year-long program of ANZAC events

Scenic Rim, Queensland

Photo courtesy of Scenic Rim Regional Council

Scenic Rim Regional Council has a year-long program of exhibitions, performances, forums, community activities and commemorative events in store for the wider Scenic Rim community to mark the Anzac Centenary.

The year-long War Stories and Our Town program reflects on key themes including: Women In War; Anzac: A Day In The Life; Make Do And Mend; Our Stories; and more.

Mayor John Brent said that 2015 will be a year to pay tribute with a plethora of commemorative events. 'In delivering this calendar of events, we will not only reflect upon and remember the sacrifice of generations of Australians in the traditional and solemn manner, but also celebrate their legacy through a range of engaging community activities,' said Brent.

Commemorative events to be included will be an original piece of theatre titled Cries of the Kalwun, by the Goat Track Theatre Company and BAMS Theatre Inc. is staging a local production of Gallipoli Bill during April and May. War-era styled dance workshops will take place in the second half of the year and from the visual arts viewpoint Australian war artist and filmmaker George Gittoes will be exhibiting his works and conducting a community masterclass.

Year-long program of ANZAC events

5. Victorian Opera


Hobart & Melbourne

Victorian Opera 2015, Remembrance 

The Victorian Opera marked the Anzac centenary on the 18 April with the premiere of Remembrance in Hobart with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra – a new work based on songs from the World War One era, archival footage and photography.

Returning to Melbourne for a performance on 13 August and touring regionally, the event will feature popular songs, poetry and prose of the wartime era performed alongside with audio-visual materials sourced primarily from the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial.

Victorian Opera’s Artistic Director and composer Richard Mills said the event is especially arranged to share a uniquely Victorian experience of war. 'Songs and poetry combine to share a moment in our country’s history; a moment that exemplifies our nation’s courage, loyalty and identity,' said Mills.

Remembrance is a journey through historic moments of the Anzac legacy – from the Declaration of War, to enlistment and training, the Gallipoli and Somme campaigns and the return home. ‘The centenary of the Great War is an event of national importance,’ said Mills adding the ‘Victorian Opera can provide unique musical resources to enrich the narrative’. 

Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall
13 August 2015

6. State Library of Queensland

Distant Lines: Queensland voices of the First World War Exhibition 


Major Hughes and Captain Marks in their dugout, Gallipoli, 1915, Marks Family Papers collection

Opening from 4 April and running until 15 November 2015, exhibition Distant Lines: Queensland voices of the First World War will tell the untold stories of Queenslanders, commemorating 100 years since Australia’s involvement in the First World War.

The exhibition explores the home and war front experiences from recruitment and conscription, campaigning to racism, censorship and propaganda with State Library’s collection of posters, photographs, records, letters and event programs on show.

State Librarian and CEO Janette Wright said Distant Lines will immerse the visitor in the daily reality of war, walking through a First World War trench experience through the lives of 25 Queenslanders who served. 'The exhibition will showcase many of State Library’s precious First World War collections that have never been seen by the public before,' said Wright.

On 11 April on the opening of Distant Lines a special day of reflection will be packed with free music events, workshops and activities, talks, curator’s tours, and a free performance by Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the exhibition marks an opportunity for interaction, debate and reflection. 'Going to this exhibition is the perfect way to get involved and honour the memory of Queensland servicemen and women,' said Palaszczuk.

4 April - 15 November 2015

7. Monet Gallery of Fine Arts

OUR ANZAC CONNECTION- a time to remember exhibition

South Guildford, WA

Our Anzac Connection, Monet Gallery of Fine Arts

Monet Gallery of Fine Arts in South Guildford Western Australia is currently holding until 3 May 2015 an exhibition to honour those from Albany and Fremantle that sacrificed their lives for our freedom and peace today. Our Anzac Connection - a time to remember, will display over 40 Anzac inspired paintings by well -known artists depicting aspects that emotionally connect the community with WW1.

Works to be included in the commemorative exhibit will include The Pink Telegram by Delma White, The Reality of War by Mary Cowell, My Noongar Uncles Fought Too by Paula Wiegmink, Anzacs of the Air by Noel Barnes and original charcoal illustrations The Light Horse Boy by Brian Simmonds, as well as Carmen Tyrer’s life-like Portrait of Arthur Capps killed at Gallipoli.

Owner and curator of Monet Gallery and watercolourist Maureen Sylvia said that she found this exhibition a worthwhile challenge to curate and visitors have so far found it compelling viewing. The exhibition was opened by Barry Strickland, the writer for the documentary film recently released about the Light Horse Brigades, The Walers.

15 March - 3 May 2015

8. Mildura Arts Centre

Three Centenary Exhibitions


George Washington Lambert (1873 – 1930) Anzacs Bathing in the Sea, 1914 Oil on canvas
Mildura Arts Centre Collection. Senator R.D Elliott Bequest, presented to the City of Mildura by Mrs Hilda Elliott, 1956.

Mildura Arts Centre (MAC) will be hosting three exhibitions to commemorate and remember the centenary. Until May, the gallery program will feature exhibitions paying tribute to our Anzac heroes and looking back at how Australia was forever changed by the conflict.

Until May 2015, MAC is also hosting the Shrine of Remembrance Touring Exhibition, Australia Will Be There: Victorians in the First World War(1914-1919) which presents a chronology of the war with focus on the contribution and sacrifice of Victorians and the cost of the war to individuals, families and communities.

The WIRE exhibition by Dominic Redfern, on display until the 3 May, draws on the landscapes of both Fromelles in France and the Mallee. It offers both a critical reflection on the culture of sentiment and fascination that has attached itself to this war and the struggles of understanding such meaningless waste of life.

Also on display until 3 May is historical exhibit WWI: artists and aftermath, which showcases MAC's collection of artworks and artifacts from this period, including documents, photographs and memorial items on loan from private collections.

Australia Will Be There: Victorians in the First World War (1914–1919) - Until Sunday 10 May 2015

WIRE By Dominic Redfern - Until Sunday 3 May 2015

WWI: artists and aftermath - Until Sunday 3 May 2015

9. The State Library of South Australia

Centenary of Anzac

South Australia


Centenary of Anza, image courtesy of the SLS

The State Library of South Australia (SLSA) is honouring the memory of those who served at the front lines on World War 1 in a series of Centenary of Anzac projects, hosting and developing a range of exhibitions, talks, presentations and performances between 2015-2018.

The main project is the creation of a web resource of the records of the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau. The records uncover the wounded and missing soldiers and nurses through each Australian state Bureau's information from families and friends, revealing eyewitness accounts, accounts of burial, hospitalisation, along with letters to and from military offices.

In addition to the project, South Australians are invited to contribute to the Centenary of Anzac by correcting text in South Australian newspaper transcriptions and help identify unidentified WW1 soldiers in photographs.

SLSA have also established a new blog A World Away: South Australia's War, to explore the events of WWI from a local South Australian perspective. The initiatives demonstrating SLSA’s ability to work with minimal resources to achieve large-scale projects and models for use of technologies and community engagement.

2015 - 2018

10. Queensland Music Festival

One Hundred and One Years (1914 to 2015)

Townsville & Brisbane


One Hundred and One Years, QMF, photo credit: Colyn Huber

Queensland Music Festival (QMF) will unite Australia and Germany for the ANZAC Centenary in a free concert spectacular One Hundred and One Years (1914 to 2015), to be performed in Townsville on 16 and 17 July and Brisbane on 19 July 2015.

Dedicated to the Queenslanders who fought in all wars, conflicts and peace operations, One Hundred and One Years is a dramatic musical narrative featuring musicians drawn from local communities, Australian Defence Force bands and Germany’s acclaimed Saxon Wind Philharmonic under the baton of one of the world’s most famous trumpet players, Thomas Clamor.

QMF has worked closely with State Library of Queensland on the development of One Hundred and One Years to gather letters, diary entries, pictures and stories from soldiers in Australia and Germany. With a focus on young soldiers, QMF Artistic Director James Morrison said the research process gave the performances a unique international perspective.

'One Hundred and One Years is about honouring young Australians who went to war, bringing to life the shared human experience and showing how relevant it still is today,' said Morrison.

Townsville - 16 & 17 July 2015

Brisbane - 19 July 2015


More for the Anzac Centenary:

Buy jingo: why the arts do it better

Has the ANZAC centenary driven arts funding off course?

Tara Watson

Thursday 23 April, 2015

About the author

Tara Watson is a Melbourne journalist & artsHub writer. Follow her on Twitter @TarasWatson