Now is your chance to check out the late modernist art collection that formed the basis of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Light and Darkness at the Chau Chak Wing Museum – the dynamic museum of art, science, history and ancient cultures at the University of Sydney – surveys art from the 1960s to the 1980s. It features internationally renowned artists from the era such as Bridget Riley, Roy Lichtenstein and Colin McCahon, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Robert Rauschenberg.
The free exhibition draws on the University’s Power Collection, established in 1967 after J W Power bequeathed his fortune to the University to bring Australians “in more direct contact with the latest art developments in other countries”. Acquisitions ceased in 1989, shortly before the collection was moved off campus to form the basis of the MCA.
Established when most Australian museums and universities were taking a cautious approach to contemporary art, the Power Collection is exceptionally rich. This exploration of the collection is underpinned by the concepts of light and darkness – ‘light’ works were a major theme of the 1960s acquisitions of European-based avant-garde artists, and in the ’80s post-modernists took on the cloak of darkness “to symbolise the endgame of modernism or to question avant-garde originality” according to senior curator Dr Ann Stephen.
Light and Darkness will be exhibited in the museum’s largest space, the 420-square metre Ian Potter Gallery, until September 2022. A companion exhibition of J W Power’s own work as a prolific cubist, The Human Calculator, is on display on Level 4 of the museum.
Hot tip: the museum is open seven days, and stays open 'til late on Thursdays, closing at 9pm.