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World art tours

Travel with friends

If you’re planning on travelling overseas, a tour with the Art Gallery Society of NSW will ensure you have a memorable and meaningful experience in the company of like-minded travellers. It also means you’re helping us buy art, as funds raised from tours go towards the Gallery’s collection.

We have a wide range of world art tours to diverse destinations. Individual tour itineraries have been carefully designed to include the most fascinating and important art historical, archaeological and architectural sites.

The Society’s tour leaders are chosen for their adventurous spirit, their knowledge, experience, ability to communicate and to manage groups. In many countries local guides are essential, and the Society has a very good network of international guides who share their intimate knowledge of complex cultural, political and religious sensitivities.


Late October/early November 2018

The frankincense route
Zanzibar, Oman and Doha
With Julian Droogan

The Gulf sultanate of Oman presents an extraordinary kaleidoscope of natural and manmade beauty: deserts, mountains and beaches on the one hand, and striking architecture, colourful textiles, and intricate woodwork, jewellery and pottery on the other. The sultanate’s 300-year rule over Zanzibar has left its indelible mark on this Indian Ocean Island, not least in the exotic mix of Islamic and Swahili influences most notable in the island’s so-called Stone Town with its intoxicating collection of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand houses with their brass-studded carved doorways. This captivating tour includes a brief stopover in the Qatari capital of Doha to visit the world’s largest collection of Islamic art.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

Mark di Suvero Eviva Amore 2001, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas. Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo

10–22 October 2018

Deep in the art of Texas
Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Santa Fe
With Ron Ramsey

In the heartland of America’s southwest, in the bustling cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Santa Fe, lie some of the world’s greatest collections of modern and contemporary art, sculpture and design.

Visit Dallas and Fort Worth, where extraordinary acts of generosity and philanthropy have endowed the cities with collections ranging from ancient to contemporary art from Asia, Africa and Europe. Even the museum buildings themselves are remarkable artistic creations by architects such as Renzo Piano, Louis Kahn and Tadao Ando. Travel to Houston, home to a wealth of museum collections spanning pre-Colombian and modern American art, traditional art and Cubism, sculpture and decorative arts and design. Conclude in Santa Fe, where the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum houses the world’s largest collection of this great American artist’s work.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


September/October 2018

Journey along the Silk Road
Xi’an to Kashgar
With Joyce Morgan

Follow the 2000-year-old Silk Road through the ancient cities, Buddhist monasteries and bustling bazaars of western China which still throng with traders from across Asia.

From Xi’an, China’s ancient capital where the Chinese Empire was born, travel west to the monasteries of ‘Little Tibet’ in Xiahe. Continue to the desert oasis of Dunhuang and the Mogao Caves adorned with 1500-year-old Buddhist statutes and frescoes. Travel onward to Ürümqi and Turpan in the lands of the Uyghur Muslims, and end in the city of Kashgar, the great Silk Road crossroads and gateway to Central Asia.

Detailed tour information available May/June 2017


September/October 2018

Iberian mosaic
From Lisbon to Bilbao
With Brian Ladd

From the rugged Atlantic coast of Portugal to the shores of Spain’s Bay of Biscay, embark on a journey across the western and northern part of the Iberian Peninsula.

Discover the proud traditions of Lisbon, whose churches and museums display the opulence of an empire which once stretched from Brazil to Macau. Take a sip of Porto, Portugal’s most important regional city and the origin of its most famous export – port wine. Join the faithful who tread the Camino de Santiago to the 1200-year-old pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. Explore Bilbao, heart of the Basque Country, whose distinctive culture adds another glittering tile to the mosaic that is Iberia.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


4–18 September 2018

Hidden art spaces of northern Japan
From Tokyo to Sapporo, and Echigo Tsumari Triennale
With John McBride AM

Discover some of the intricacies of art in northern Japan, where traditional culture rubs shoulders with sleek modernity.

Explore Hokkaido, Japan’s most northerly and sparsely populated island, and home to the Ainu, whose artwork is inspired by their volcanic surroundings. Visit outdoor sculpture parks around Sapporo where works of bronze, stone and concrete are in dialogue with their natural environment. In Honshu, Japan’s largest and most densely populated island, wander through the Echigo Tsumari Art Fields, where sculptures are exhibited in fields, houses and abandoned buildings under the satoyama philosophy of integrating man and nature. Explore the modern metropolis of Tokyo, where traditional and contemporary art sit side-by-side at the heart of Japanese culture.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

2015 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, block printing workshop with Marnin Studio, photo courtesy DAAFF

August 2018

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair 2018
Darwin and Melville Island

Travel to the world’s largest exhibition of Indigenous Australian art in Darwin, and experience the riches of Tiwi culture with a visit to Melville Island.

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair gathers together the works of more than 50 Indigenous art centres and over 2000 rising and established Indigenous artists from across the continent. The artworks exhibited range from canvas paintings to didgeridoos, sculpture, bark paintings, prints and fibre art, and cover a wealth of styles reflecting the distinct traditions of different tribal groups across Australia. Coinciding with the fair is the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, recognising the best of the year’s Indigenous art. After three days in Darwin, travel to Melville Island, where the striking Tiwi artistic style of abstract and geometric patterns contrasts with the more familiar narrative style of mainland art.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec La Gouloue at the Moulin Rouge 1891-92 (detail), oil on board 79.4 × 59 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence

July 2018

Masterworks from MoMA in Melbourne
With Brian Ladd

Experience some of the world’s greatest works of modern art direct from New York’s famed Museum of Modern Art, together with visits to the distinctive galleries of Melbourne’s Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula.

In an international exclusive, in 2018 the National Gallery of Victoria will display an unmissable collection of masterpieces from MoMA, including works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Also spend a day at Heide Museum of Modern Art and TarraWarra Museum in the picturesque Yarra Valley, and journey to the Mornington Peninsula’s McClelland Sculpture Park and renowned Regional Art Gallery.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

Elbe River cruise

11–24 June 2018

The Elbe art and music cruise
From Berlin to Prague, plus Hamburg and Vienna
With Christopher Lawrence, Liz Gibson and Thomas Abbott

From the north of Germany to the heart of Bohemia, the Elbe River and its tributaries link the great cultural centres of Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden and Prague. In the company of classical music broadcaster Christopher Lawrence, the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales’ Liz Gibson, and Berlin-based art expert Thomas Abbott, discover the art treasures and musical riches of these magnificent cities as you gently cruise the river aboard the M/S Elbe Princesse.

By day immerse yourself in some of the world’s greatest art collections, discover smaller hidden gems such as Potsdam, Magdeburg, Wittenberg and Litomerice and marvel at the natural beauty of ‘Saxon Switzerland’. In the evenings, enjoy performances in the new Berlin State Opera, a night at Dresden’s Semper Opera and concerts by the likes of the Berlin Philharmonic, Dresden Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic orchestras. Extend your journey with an optional extension to Vienna, the city of art and music, which in 2018 will host special exhibitions devoted to Viennese modernism.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


3–18 June 2018

Behind the scenery
Music, theatre and art in Canada
With Jonathan Biggins

Join theatre personality Jonathan Biggins for a feast of music, theatre, ballet, concerts and art against the backdrop of Canada’s spectacular mountains and lakes.

Begin in Vancouver, gateway to the Pacific northwest. Ascend the awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies aboard a glass-roofed train, and marvel at the natural beauty of Banff and the pale blue waters of Lake Louise. In Canada’s cultural capital of Toronto, enjoy visits to the nation’s foremost galleries and museums, and an evening of innovative contemporary ballet. Round off your journey with a wealth of Canadian and international theatre at the Shaw Festival and Stratford Festival.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


June 2018

The pursuit of freedom
Modern art and architecture in America
With Jaime Tsai

Visit Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York, where 20th-century American modernism produced art and architecture that shaped the world.

As the 19th century passed into history, America refashioned itself from a wild frontier into an industrial and artistic powerhouse in its growing cities. In Chicago, explore some of the great works of American modernist painting at the Art Institute and visit homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. In Pittsburgh, discover how pop revolutionised modern art with a visit to the Andy Warhol Museum, and visit the extensive collection of the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia. In New York, enjoy a private tour of the Museum of Modern Art and take the rare opportunity to visit DIA Beacon, which houses a unique collection of American minimalism and land art.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


May/June 2018

The golden ages of Greece
From Minoan Crete to classical Athens
With Judy Roberts

Explore the very birthplace of Western culture, tracing its rise from the island of Crete to the Peloponnese, Phocis and Athens. Visit the Minoan palace complex of Knossos, where Theseus slew the mythical Minotaur, discover Olympia, where Greeks came together to compete in the Olympic Games, and wander the wealthy ancient city of Corinth. Seek out the Oracle at Delphi before arriving in Athens, where Greek culture reached its zenith on the magnificent Acropolis.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


18 May – 5 June 2018

A road less travelled
Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan
With Liz Gibson

Discover where Europe and Asia meet, and explore the spectacular landscapes of three distinct nations – Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Set between the Black and Caspian Seas, and surrounded by the old empires of Russia, Persia and Turkey, the peoples of the Caucasus have developed proud, independent traditions of their own, with a rich and complex mix of religion, language and art that has fired the imagination of travellers for centuries. Discover the ancient Byzantine monasteries and churches of Armenia, wander through the golden treasures in the galleries and museums of Georgia, and explore the old palaces, mosques, and markets in Azerbaijan. Enjoy the fascinating blend of ancient tradition and contemporary cosmopolitan life in today’s three capital cities of Yerevan, Tbilisi and Baku.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


24 April – 6 May 2018

Palaces, power and patronage
Art cities of Eastern Italy
With Lorraine Kypiotis

Explore Padua, Ravenna, Bologna and beyond as Eastern Italy reveals its Byzantine and Renaissance treasures.

Discover Padua, a city whose 14th-century Scrovegni Chapel contains a masterful series of frescos by Giotto, and Ferrara, which is still surrounded by more than nine kilometres of original Mediæval walls. In Ravenna, last capital of the Western Roman Empire, admire the Byzantine mosaics of the Basilica di San Vitale. Continue to Urbino, where the 15th-century palace of Duke Federico III da Montefeltro houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Renaissance art, and travel via the ancient micro-state of San Marino to red-roofed Bologna, home of the oldest university in the world and the largest Gothic church ever constructed.

Detailed tour information available May 2017


March 2018

From the Sahara to the sea
Art, culture and landscapes of Morocco
With Kenneth Park

Join Kenneth Park as he traverses the Kingdom of Morocco, from the bustling souqs of Marrakesh to the sands of the Sahara in Erfoud, and up across the Atlas Mountains to the Mediterranean port of Tangier.

Timed to begin with the Marrakesh Biennale, follow in the footsteps of mediæval camel caravans as you make your way to the Grand Market of Marrakesh, where dancing boys, snake charmers, peddlers and magicians vie to entertain the passers-by. Cross the High Atlas Mountains and travel to the desert towns of Ouarzazate and Erfoud, before turning north again to Fez, whose madrasas and ancient university have seen it dubbed ‘the Athens of Africa’. Visit the artisanal workshops of Tétouan and uncover the risqué and unconventional literary heritage of Tangier, the den of Tennessee Williams and William S Borroughs, before venturing down the Atlantic Coast to the country’s capital, Rabat.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


9–22 January 2018

Russian winter wonderland
Art and music in Moscow and St Petersburg
With Alan Dodge

Be enchanted by the beauty of Moscow and St Petersburg in the wintertime, and drink a warm draught from Russia’s centuries-old artistic traditions. In Moscow, discover a city that merges the serenity of a Russian Orthodox monastery with the dynamism of one of Europe’s major economic centres. In St Petersburg, wander through Russia’s imperial capital, bejewelled with the palaces of Grand Dukes and Empresses – all of it without the summer crowds.

By day, revel in the glories of Russia’s art and architecture. By night, immerse yourself in the sumptuous world of opera, ballet and concerts at legendary venues such as the Bolshoi Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Novaya Opera and the Stanislavsky & Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

New York

5–14 January 2018

Art deco to art now
New York
With Claudia Chan Shaw

Continuing her sold-out series Art deco to art now, Claudia Chan Shaw turns her attention to New York City, renowned for its rich heritage of art deco and embrace of the Jazz Age.

On this tour, see, experience and marvel at New York’s most identifiable architectural style beginning with a fresh look at well-known landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, followed by a discovery of hidden gems in Brooklyn, the Bronx and beyond. Then, come right up to date with the art and architecture of today, plus a feast of opera, music and theatre.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


24 October – 2 November 2017

Through the holy lands: Jordan
Amman – Dead Sea – Petra – Aqaba
With Julian Droogan
From $5350 pp plus airfares

Thanks to its strategic location at the crossroads of the ancient world, Jordan is truly part of the ‘cradle of civilisation’. From antiquity to the 20th century, this tiny country has had a fascinating and varied history, which has left its mark with an extraordinary abundance of archaeological finds dating back 6000 years. From powerful biblical sites and well-preserved ancient Roman cities to Arabic desert citadels, Crusader castles and Umayyad palaces, Jordan is also rich in geographical contrasts. For many, of course, the highlight will be the magical, ancient rock-cut city of Petra.

This tour connects with Through the holy lands: Israel and Palestine.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website


15–24 October 2017

Through the holy lands: Israel and Palestine
Nazareth – Galilee – Jerusalem – Bethlehem
With Julian Droogan
From $6950 pp plus airfares

The Levantine lands of Israel and Palestine sit at the core of three world religions and 5000 years of oft-contested Western history. The rich, complex and at times baffling history of places like Jericho, Nazareth, Bethlehem and the spectacular city of Jerusalem makes them an unparalleled and challenging travel experience. From ancient sacred sites that emerged out of prehistory and whose names resonate in myth and story, to Greco-Roman cities whose markets can still be shopped in today, Israel and Palestine are unlike any other destinations in the Classical world.

This tour connects with Through the holy lands: Jordan.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

8–21 October 2017

Bhutan: the last Himalayan kingdom
Mountains and monasteries
With Joyce Morgan
From $10,850 including airfares

Bhutan has sweeping mountains, towering fortress-monasteries and a rich Buddhist culture expressed in its multitude of festivals. The reclusive kingdom has started to open its doors to the world while maintaining its vibrant traditions. With breathtaking architecture, dramatic landscape and a thriving artistic culture, the land of the Thunderdragon is like no other. Myth and legend intertwine in a place where monks dance and tigers are said to fly, where rice is red and men don traditional robes with argyle socks.

Autumn is an ideal time to visit Bhutan when the monsoon is over, the fields are green, the weather is mild and several colourful monastery festivals take place.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

Jeong Hwa Choi Fruit tree 2001. Photo: Ken Kato, courtesy of the Organizing Committee for Yokohama Triennale

7–19 October 2017

More than meets the eye
Contemporary art, architecture and design in Japan
With Kathryn Hunyor
From $11,850 pp plus airfares

At once traditional yet futuristic, timeless yet fast-moving, Japan has developed a bold and unique aesthetic in contemporary art, architecture and design that permeates all aspects of everyday life. The adventure begins with exploring Tokyo’s extraordinary new architectural masterpieces, art museums, design studios and commercial urban spaces. Visit the Yokohama Triennale and Kanazawa and conclude with the extraordinary ‘art islands’ of Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

Alhambra, Spain

21 September – 6 October 2017

Art treasures of Madrid and Andalusia
From the Prado to the Alhambra
With Brian Ladd
From $9450 pp plus airfares

From the Prado to the Alhambra, discover the magnificent art treasures of Madrid and the splendours of Andalusia. Beginning in Madrid, enjoy comprehensive visits to three of the world’s great art collections, as you savour the sophistication of the Spanish capital. Then, by fast train and leisurely coach, travel across Andalusia, the historical domain of the Moors from 711 until 1492, and Spain’s most culturally diverse region. From Seville and Córdoba in the west to Granada in the east, discover the fascinating history, art, architecture, food and culture of this captivating corner of the Iberian Peninsula. On the way, enjoy an interlude in Ronda and discover the re-birth of Malaga as a centre of modern and contemporary art.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website

Mary Kelly Love songs 2005–07, installation in five parts. Photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz / © documenta Archiv

7–20 September 2017

Cutting-edge contemporary
Skulptur Projekte Münster, documenta 14, ABC Berlin, private collections and Spinnerei Leipzig
With Gitte Weise
From $9450 pp plus airfares

2017 is an exciting year for contemporary art in Germany with four ‘must-see’ events – the Münster Skulptur Projekte, documenta 14, ABC Berlin and Spinnerei Leipzig. Begin with the Münster Skulptur Projekte and continue to Kassel for documenta 14 entitled ‘Learning from Athens’. During a week in Berlin explore this lively city’s outstanding museums and private collections and attend Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC). This tour concludes with a day trip to Leipzig and the distinctive 19th-century Spinnerei art.

More information and itinerary on Renaissance Tours website