TIME OUT: Sweet life

This week's picks include the Picasso exhibition in Brisbane, a gem of a bookstore in Sydney and some designer downloads for your iPod.


Stop searching – we've found five things for you to do this weekend.

1.       The artist’s art: Picasso in Brisbane

This is the penultimate weekend of the exhibition Picasso and his Collection at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, and it’s well worth making an effort to get there. It’s the first time Picasso’s personal art collection has been seen outside Europe; Brisbane will be its only Australian showing. Among the treasures are 80 pieces by artists whose works the Spaniard admired, including Braque, Matisse, Miro and Modigliani. These are accompanied by 80 significant pieces by Picasso himself, as well as photographs documenting his life and work.

It’s a big, ambitious exhibition and completely in keeping with GoMA’s confident determination to make a splash. There is plenty to reward and fascinate in the gallery besides Picasso – while you’re there don’t miss the stand-out Indigenous Art Collection, beautifully served by the space it commands.

There is fine eating in-house, too. In fact the Foyer Bistro has become a destination in its own right, rather than just an adjunct to an art outing. It has all the space and serenity you'd expect from its gallery setting, with a light and airy feel. The food is simple, Asian-influenced and delicious. Sit outside if you don't mind the background roar of the traffic heading past over the bridge – on a clement day you'll catch a soft tropical breeze and hear the eerie calls of the local bird life on the riverbank.


2.       First on the left: Gould’s Book Arcade in Sydney

Gould’s Book Arcade is one of those Sydney institutions that almost become background noise – it’s been around for so long you can start feeling you’ve been there even if you never have. Or perhaps you have been there, but not since Derrida was hot. Either way, you should make the trip to this bookshop like no other and celebrate the fact that such an idiosyncratic, gloriously archaic place has now prospered on this spot for 20 years.

Once inside, you’ll either love it or hate it. "Leave the safelands behind" was poet Brook Emery's advice about coming to Gould's. He forgot to add "and loosen your attachment to the Dewey Decimal System". Second-hand books in any genre, on every topic imaginable, are stacked to the ceiling. The precarious piles pose a worthy challenge for hunter-gatherer-readers blessed with patience.

If you love poetry and plays you can spend days trailing through shelves groaning with every edition of every work featured on every university booklist since back when Granny was a suffragette. If you need the worst album cover art from the 1970s to inspire your next T-shirt graphic, you'll also find satisfaction here. Owner Bob Gould, famed as a 1960s Trotskyite, might have been too busy setting up the Society for the Cultivation of Rebellion Everywhere to attend charm school, but he cares enough about ideas on the page to have lasted this long. If you’re dispirited by the global book industry, with its lattes and latest-is-best tunnel vision, come here for a reviving dose of anarchic, no nonsense book-loving.


3.       Hear So Much More: Listen to Brett Dennen

Less than a generation ago, radio was the place you were most likely to encounter new music. The world has moved on. These days the easiest way to hear the pick of the new crop is to sit down to a night of big-budget commercial TV.

Brett Dennen is one young talent who has benefited from the hungry soundtracks of shows including Grey’s Anatomy, House, The Unit and Scrubs. The US singer-songwriter has a distinctive sweet, raspy, sincere sound that caught the ear of fellow musos in 2004 when he quietly put out his first, self-titled album. His recent second album, So Much More, has been more widely appreciated, but TV’s use of his songs that has given him his biggest push so far.

Missy Higgins’ current inroads into the American market have been helped by Dennen, for whom she served as support act there (she subsequently went into the studio with him as a guest on two tracks from his upcoming album Hope for the Hopeless). Now it’s Dennen’s turn to take a backseat. While he has built a very solid following at home in the US, he is still little known here. So, on his current Australian tour he will headline the smaller gigs, but play in support of Pete Murray in the big venues.

This weekend sees him play in Brisbane (with Murray 6/9 & 7/9 and separately on 9/9). He then heads south to Wollongong, Sydney and Melbourne, where he finishes his tour at the Northcote Social Club on September 17. Click here to hear Dennen’s single "Ain’t No Reason” and other tracks, and catch him while he’s still an up-and-comer.


4.       Indulge your sweet tooth at Brunetti in Melbourne

Reward yourself after a week of restraint with a luscious afternoon tea this weekend at Brunetti in Carlton.

There's not much atmosphere inside and it's as hectic as Rome's central railway station most of the time (not for nothing has it expanded to occupy five shopfronts over the years). That hustle and bustle means that simply figuring out the route to the correct counter can be a challenge. But it's all worth it when you taste the sweet creations.

The choices are enticing and seemingly endless – hmm, what will it be today? Melt in the mouth cannoli, tiramisu so luscious you want to take it intravenously or … hang on, what's that one, over there? If you can't choose between the treats, don't expect the assistants to be much help; ask the person standing next to you instead.

When you do finally decide you could get your indulgences packaged up to take away, but why not give yourself a little break and sit down to savour them with coffee? It is the weekend, after all.

5.       Give your iGadgets a designer’s touch

Being a graphic designer, Juan Carlos Cammaert cares more than most about the digital wallpaper on his phone and mp3, and he and his designer pals "hate the standard wallpapers and cheesy nature themes available everywhere”. OK, you’re designers, is the obvious response, why don’t you do something about it? They already have.

On the Poolga website you’ll find scores of designs created by Cammaert and a group of like-minded creative types he invited to participate. The designs were specifically made to serve as free wallpaper downloads for iPhone and iPod Touch.

There’s a huge range of styles, from pencil drawings and retro collages to optical illusions and poster art. And given that the designs are all free and easy to download, you can change them as frequently as you want. What’s the catch? There isn’t one. Most of the contributing international designers have very healthy careers. They just do this stuff for fun, and to make the world a slightly funkier place. Click here to see more.

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