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Powerhouse Museum

  • Museums
  • Ultimo
  1. Powerhouse Museum Ultimo
    Photograph: Powerhouse Museum/Katherine Lu
  2. Powerhouse Museum Ultimo
    Photograph: Powerhouse Museum/Zan Wimberley
  3. Three ceramic busts from behind. They are elaborately decorated with landscape paintings, gold leaf and red clay formations
    Photograph: Powerhouse Museum/Zan Wimberley | Image: 'China, China' (installation view), Ah Xian

Time Out says

This former power station is the home of one of Sydney's most dynamic and beloved museums

Powerhouse Ultimo is a contemporary museum in the heart of Sydney with a focus on arts, science, innovation and design.

Located on the site of the old Ultimo Power Station, the Powerhouse opened as a museum in 1988 and is one of the largest in Australia. Inside you'll find a series of permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, a reconstructed 1930s cinema showing films from that period, a steam-powered locomotive train the 1850s (in the foyer), and the Boulton & Watt steam engine (1785).

The fate of this beloved museum was uncertain for a little while, but in 2020 plans to shut down the Ultimo location in favour of a new Parramatta site were scrapped. While the Parramatta branch is still set to open in 2023, the original museum is getting a 500 million dollar makeover.

The museum is open daily 10am-5pm (except Christmas Day). Entry is free, some visiting exhibitions are ticketed, and no bookings are required.

The Powerhouse is located at 500 Harris St, Ultimo, close to Darling Harbour, Chinatown, Central Station (Sydney Terminal), Broadway bus station (Railway Square), and Exhibition Centre Sydney Light Rail Station.

Written by
Time Out editors


500 Harris St
Free entry
Opening hours:
Daily 10am-5pm; closed Christmas Day

What’s on

Absolutely Queer at the Powerhouse

When it comes down to it, fashion is totally about being seen. Combine this with the historical theatrics of queer performance and identity, and you have a spellbinding array of flamboyant, inventive and fabulous outfits made to be seen in. This is exactly what you can expect from the Powerhouse Ultimo’s Absolutely Queer exhibition, which features costumes, design, fashion and multimedia installations from Sydney’s queer creatives.  Highlights of this exhibition include its intimate focus on Sydney’s queer community, and its age-diverse cross-section of contributors. Costumes and footage from one of Sydney’s first and most prominent drag kings, the iconic Sexy Galexy, provide a glimpse into the evolution of the local queer community.  A generous platform for figures like Sexy Galexy promotes visibility for under-represented queer figures like drag kings, as opposed to drag queens, which are largely more accepted in the mainstream. There are also costumes from pioneers of the Sydney Mardi Gras such as Peter Tully, Brian Ross and Renè Rivas, and a spotlight on transgender activist and cartoonist Norrie May-Welby, who fought to be the first person in Australia to be legally recognised as neither a man or a woman.  Photograph: Powerhouse/Zan Wimberley | Sexy Galexy performance costumes in Absolutely Queer Each artist’s work is accompanied by an anecdotal personal statement, that both pays respect to the historical alienation they experienced as a queer person, and the beauty of f


The alternative music scene of the ‘90s is the focus of this new major exhibition at the Powerhouse. Unpopular draws on artifacts from the archive of renowned music promoter Stephen ‘Pav’ Pavlovic, the founder of the legendary Summersault festival tour. A key player in the music industry, Pav was responsible for the first and only Australian tour by Nirvana, and also brought the likes of the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Beck, Foo Fighters, Pavement, Rancid, Jawbreaker, Bikini Kill and the Amps to our shores. Working with designer Alice Babidge, Pavlovic has put on display over 200 items from his personal collection, including photographs, posters, graphic art, fanzines, tour itineraries, setlists, and personal letters and postcards, along with previously unreleased video footage, music demos, and live audio recordings. In addition, artist Lillian O’Neil and filmmaker Julian Klincewicz have created major new works. Accompanying the exhibition is the film program Uncensored (Dec 2-4, 2022), featuring crucial music documentaries such as Cosmic Psychos: Blokes You Can Trust, Fugazi’s Instrument, Cobain: Montage of Heck, The Man from Mo'Wax, and Freakscene: The Story of Dinosaur Jr. There’s also Unproductive (April school holidays, 2023), a series of art workshops from Ben Brown and Paul Curtis, and Unfocused (Nov 3 + 12, 2022), a music photography masterclass with Sophie Howarth. For fans of the music and veterans of the ‘90s alike, this is a can’t-miss exhibition. The exhibition i

Zampatti Powerhouse

Gather ‘round, fashion lovers. The Powerhouse museum in Ultimo has unveiled its major survey exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of the distinguished and oh-so-fashionable Sydneysider, Carla Zampatti (1938–2021). If you’re not already a Zampatti admirer, you will leave this exhibition minted as a fan of the original “queen of the jumpsuit”. The first internationally exclusive retrospective of the much admired Italian-born designer presents the life and work of Zampatti – beloved as an Australian fashion icon, pioneering businesswoman and bad-ass working mother and grandmother.  The breadth of her extraordinary private, professional and public life is rendered in exquisite detail, anchored by Zampatti’s signature designs and brought to life with first person reflections from the designer's clients, family, staff and friends. Zampatti began collaborating with the Powerhouse on this exhibition in 2019, and after her death in 2021, the project evolved into a loving tribute to an extraordinary woman.  Carla Zampatti was an icon who Australian women connected with on a very emotional level Open from November 24, 2022, Zampatti Powerhouse encompasses over five decades of material, surveying a trailblazing career from the establishment of her business in 1965 through to her most recent work.  “What this exhibition is full of is all these emotional resonances, not only about Carla Zampatti herself, but the wearers,” says exhibition curator Roger Leong. “Carla Zampatti was an ic


  • 4 out of 5 stars

If you’ve ever wanted to submerge yourself in another (considerably more frightening) world of plane crashes and ghostly séances, look no further. After a long time away, the terrifyingly brilliant alt-universe of Darkfield has finally made its grandiose return to Sydney – and boy, are we shivering in our wee little boots already.  Over 15,000 people have flocked to the experience already, causing most sessions to sell out. So due to popular demand, the season has been extended through to July 2. Darkfield is an experience that straddles technology, theatre and horror movies, with punters made to sit inside a tiny space in total darkness while an immersive audio experience (through headphones, shall we add) takes them far, far away to a scary someplace else. Séance and Flight are the two wild experiences that Sydneysiders have the chance to sit in on, and each of them brings their own individual brand of eeriness for those willing to take the ride. Designed by UK-based creative directors Glen Neath and David Rosenberg, these experiences go down in specially-made shipping containers that are temporarily popping-up outside the Powerhouse Museum. We went down to see what all the fuss is about, read on for our reviews: Séance  Darkfield’s set-up outside the Powerhouse Museum may appear unassuming, but the extraordinarily dark interior provokes more than enough of the unease necessary for a premium immersive horror experience. Believe me when I say that the interior of the shippin

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