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Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

  • Museums
  • The Rocks
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  1. Exterior view of MCA building with Sydney Harbour Bridge in background.
    Photograph: Museum of Contemporary Art/Anna Kucera
  2. Exterior view of MCA entrance and forecourt
    Photograph: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia/Brett Boardman
  3. Exterior view of MCA forecourt with Lindy Lee sculpture installed
    Photograph: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia/Ken Leanfore | Lindy Lee, Secret World of a Starlight Ember, 2020, installation view, Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop.

Time Out says

Sydney's home of contemporary art on Circular Quay

Perched on Circular Quay, the MCA is Sydney's year-round desination for new age and left-of-centre art. In addition to being open six days a week, the museum is also open late on Friday nights until 9pm.

Once the administration offices of the Maritime Services Board, this waterside museum was overhauled head to toe (well, almost) in 2011 and re-opened in March 2012 with light, airy, uncluttered interiors, more floor space and a boxy new facade. It's not just good looks, either: the rooftop café and sculpture terrace, high-tech education centre, and 120-seat lecture theatrette and forecourt are all worth checking out.

And the original sandstone heart is still there. “We wanted to keep the old building but provide something next to it that says immediately that this is a contemporary building,” says MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE.

Inside, the galleries themselves are clean, logical and open – with long vistas to entice and draw you in further. While the design of the exterior is about drawing attention, the opposite is the case for the interior. “The most important thing is the art,” says architect Sam Marshall. “In the perfect gallery there would be no architecture visible. For most of the MCA’s exhibitions they install walls, change colours and put different surfaces in. That requires a really simple space with a really simple circulation system.”

Written by Darryn King


140 George St
The Rocks
Opening hours:
Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm; Fri, 10am-9pm

What’s on

Biennale of Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Sydney’s stalwart for contemporary and kooky works of art that get your senses tingling is bringing out its obscure best for the 23rd Biennale of Sydney. Participants here have been called on to reflect on deep time, primal waters, and ancient histories. Nineteen works are inhabiting the first and third floors of the expansive gallery.  Further blurring the lines of art, science and history, the MCA also presents the Biennale’s oldest participant. Alongside the artworks is a 365-million-year-old fish fossil from Canowindra in NSW, which is being displayed to the public for the first time. Venezuelan artist Milton Becerra presents an installation with three large stones held in space by a network of coloured threads. These threads are the structural elements holding the stones, which appear to levitate as central points within the mass of energy. The lines that radiate from them simulate orbits that create vibrations and subtle sounds. Presenting a series of large-scale tapestries exploring themes of climate change and climate justice, German artist Kiki Smith has been exhibiting her artwork internationally for over 30 years, but her involvement with the Biennale is her first significant presentation in Australia. Her unique style draws on mythology, folklore, fairytales and feminism. In his Connective Reveal series, artist Robert Andrew, a descendent of the Yawuru people of the Broome area in the Kimberley, uses what he calls a palimpsest machine; a modified 3D printer progra


  • Galleries

Each year, the Museum of Contemporary Art invites an artist or curator to take the reins of Primavera: Young Australian Artists, an exhibition for emerging artists under 35. The brief is simple: showcase artists from across Australia who they feel represent current trends or styles emerging in the next generation. This simplicity is its greatest asset: it means each artist-curator gets the chance to put their own stamp on the exhibition, and every show is unique. As a bonus, the show has a reputation for identifying Australian art’s next big thing before they go on to international stardom. The twice rescheduled 30th edition, Primavera 2021 is curated by Melbourne-based Aboriginal curator, Hannah Presley. Her curatorial process is guided by artists, learning about the techniques, history and community that inform their making. The talented curator has many strings to her bow, and Primavera represents the first major exhibition she has taken charge of that is not solely focussed on First Nations artists.  This year you can see a collection of deconstructed paintings from Dean Cross, a Worimi artist who lives and works on Gadigal Country (Sydney), after eyeing up Primavera for many years, Cross just scrapes in (he turns 36 during the exhibition run). There’s also a collection of multidimensional, organic ceramic forms from Tarndanya (Adelaide) based artist Sam Gold; a video installation from Darug and Gadigal Country (Sydney) based artist Justine Youssef, which was filmed in a

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