HOTA – the Home Of The Arts vast new art gallery opened in May. Photo: Brett Boardman
The Nerang River may never have looked better than on this sublime autumn morning as the hop-on, hop-off ferry plies its way from Surfers Paradise to the wharf barely a 200-metre stroll from the Gold Coast’s latest $65 million tourist attraction.
Naturally the Home of the Arts or HOTA (pronounced “hotter”) precinct has a central water feature: a child-friendly, man-made swimming lagoon where even today – when the water temperature has reached a chilly 25 degrees – adults are doing laps.
And yes, there’s entertainment aplenty.
It’s hoped HOTA will do for the Gold Coast what the Australian gambler David Walsh’s MONA did for Hobart. Photo: Brett Boardman
There’s a theatre, two cinemas showing indie films that don’t make it to the multiplexes, and an outdoor amphitheatre that has already witnessed live performances by the likes of Crowded House, Jimmy Barnes and Opera Queensland.
If you prefer a more intimate, family experience, take the kids for a waterfront picnic after they’ve exhausted themselves by challenging the playground or exploring the area’s rooftop garden.
Bars? Get real: this is the Gold Coast. Choose between a cleansing ale at the tented outdoor pop-up or select an ultra metropolitan cocktail at The Exhibitionist Bar, a perfect rooftop for a sundowner overlooking the hinterland and the waterways pointing towards the famous high-rise skyline.
The bad news?
You’ll probably be tempted into HOTA itself – the Home Of The Arts vast new art gallery opened in May, more than 50 years since its collection was inaugurated.
It’s hoped HOTA will do for the Gold Coast what the Australian gambler David Walsh’s MONA did for Hobart, or Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim did for Bilbao: transform the reputation of Australia’s sixth largest city from a cultural desert to a cultural mecca.
Some reports before HOTA opened were snide, along the lines of “Culture? The Gold Coast? An oxymoron, surely?”.
But walk inside the multi-coloured, Lego-like exterior to see the five free permanent exhibition spaces and you’ll be confronted by a much more nuanced and intellectually-challenging Gold Coast.
Criena Gehrke, HOTA’s chief executive, meets me on the fifth floor viewing deck (next to The Exhibitionist Bar) for an aerial view.
She points to the pedestrian/cyclist bridge that connects HOTA to the raucous range of affordable ethnic restaurants on Chevron Island, with its public transport connections to anywhere on the Gold Coast.
She also concedes she’s redefined 5am since moving from Melbourne: “It used to be the time I got home. Now I’m doing laps in the lake before work.
“We’re a microcosm of the Gold Coast. There’s Nippers here on Sundays, plus our farmer’s market.
“We want the HOTA precinct to be like nowhere else, somewhere where lifestyle and culture meets. This is an egalitarian space.”
Firstly, there’s the free dedicated children’s gallery, with its interactive games linked to the temporary exhibition down the corridor.
At the HOTA launch the temporary exhibition, Solid Gold (finishing on July 4) was a smorgasbord of works by cutting edge contemporary artists working on the Gold Coast.
Lyrical Landscapes: the art of William Robinson (July 31-Oct 3) bringing together paintings and drawings by arguably Australia’s greatest living landscape artist.
Now 85, “Bill” Robinson is hugely excited by this show – curated by his friend, former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce. He hasn’t seen many of the works since they were bought by wealthy overseas collectors.
But the real reason to visit anytime you’re in the Gold Coast is to see Australia’s playground through the eyes of artists who lived here or visited.
In the free-to-enter permanent galleries, take the lift to the top floor, admire the views, then move via the downwards stairways to each focused mini-gallery.
You’ll find challenging satirical and inventive works by Indigenous locals; stunning offerings from blow-ins like Alfred Tucker and Fred Williams; plus a cornucopia of paintings, photography and works on paper.
A cultural desert?
The writer travelled courtesy of HOTA.
Home Of The Arts, HOTA, hota.com.au Free entry to main gallery, and most of the area’s activities.
QT Gold Coast, 7 Staghorn Avenue, Surfers Paradise, qthotels.com/gold-coast.
Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin and Rex are among the airlines which fly from Australian cities to Gold Coast international airport, Coollangatta, goldcoastairport.com.au (with travel options to HOTA).