PICA – Where Old School Houses New Art

Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA)

53 James Street

Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge

Perth WA 6000

Whether you are a lover of all things historical or prefer the contemporary in life, a place to visit in Perth that will satisfy both fancies is the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA).

Situated in the heart of the Perth Cultural Centre in Northbridge, this cutting-edge contemporary arts institute is housed in an iconic heritage building dating back to the late 1800s. That’s a pretty interesting mix.

PICA is in good company and has as its neighbours the State Library of Western Australia, the Western Australia Museum and the Art Gallery of Western Australia. For visitors to Perth wanting to tap into some Australian art and culture, this area of Northbridge is definitely a great place to start.


PICA is in good company and has as its neighbours the State Library of Western Australia, the Western Australia Museum and the Art Gallery of Western Australia. For visitors to Perth wanting to tap into some Australian art and culture, this area of Northbridge is definitely a great place to start.

 

jeppe-hein-450

 

Image Credit: Jeppe Hein, Appearing Rooms, 2004 (detail).
Installation view at PICA.
Courtesy of the artist and Johann Konig,
Berlin and 303 Gallery, New York.
Photo: Pilar Mata Dupont and Tarryn Gill.


Though its home was built in 1896, PICA began operating from the James Street building in 1988 with the main aim of promoting contemporary art in Western Australia, be it visual, performing or mixed.


PICA runs a year-round program where at any given time visitors have choices: they may see a live performance of dance or theatre, take in an art show in a gallery that has been described as one of the largest exhibition spaces in Australia, or view a longer-term artist’s work in residency.


better-places-t-nathan-450

Jurek Wybraniec, Wall, Floor, Rug and Table, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view of Better Places. Photo by Tony Nathan.



Apart from being a venue for exhibits and performances, PICA also acts as a mentor for both budding and mature artists, and operates as an educator offering a host of programs, activities, exhibitions, tours and kits to introduce students to the world of art; hoping to whet appetites and instil a lifelong love of the arts along the way.


For the history buffs who want to know a little more about the building housing PICA, according to Australian Heritage Database, 53 James Street was a school and technical college for most of its life prior to its current hip status. It is a great example of the Federation Free Classical style with the exterior of the building featuring prominent decorative elements. In general though, it is considered quite a conservative building and is a great example of a government school building of 1890s.

 

It was known as the Perth Boys' and Girls' School (1897-1936); Perth Boys' School (1936-46); Perth Boys' High School (1947-58); part of Perth Technical College (1959-87); and PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts), (1988-present).

How to get there:

By train:

If you are travelling into Perth city centre by train, hop off at the main station and head to the upper concourse for Forrest Chase. Turn left and walk over the Roe Street pedestrian overpass. Follow the path around past the Art Gallery of Western Australia (on your right). The State Library will be straight ahead and PICA is down the steps to the left.

By car:

The nearest car parks to PICA are at the State Library and the Cultural Centre. Entrance to the State Library car park is via James Street or Francis Street and entrance to the Cultural Centre car park is via Roe Street.

Please feel free to check out other Perth Walkabout articles in our Arts and Culture section.

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