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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

Electric Keys

  • History

Few instruments have impacted the evolution of sound more than the keyboard. This groovy innovation helped shape music genres, changed the game for touring bands and set a distinctly futuristic vibe for generations of composers to play with. Powerhouse Museum is providing a thrilling trip through the humble keyboard's progression with mechanical models from the 17th century, significant synth examples and some recently-acquired mid-20th century models from the museum's collection. A visit to the Electric Keys exhibition will get you up-close and personal with the revealing collection of keyboards. Highlights include a Model B3 Hammond organ released in 1955, a pioneering invention that brought unprecedented technology to the music world at the time and continues to fascinate synth enthusiasts to this day. Marvel at 392 years of music history through 22 instruments in this incredible exhibition. Electric Keys will be on diplay in the museum until 12 June 2022, find out more here.

The Invisible Revealed

  • Science

The Powerhouse Museum wants to show you there's more than meets the eye with this revealing exhibition, The Invisible Revealed. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has put its incredible innovations to work, using nuclear beams to unveil a deeper, more granular look at objects from the museum's collection.  See artefacts that have been scanned through ANSTO's nuclear reactor, synchrotron and other particle accelerator based technologies. The process reveals an object's composition and structure – revealing invaluable and fascinating insights into how they were made and how they can be preserved well into the future. The Invisible Revealed will show a selection of artefacts alongside the data and secrets revealed by the ANTSO capability. ANSTO have scanned objects such as Samurai swords from 987–1830, a Chinese Shang dynasty bronze wine vessel from 1600–1046 BCE and more recent examples such as the world’s first hand held calculator from the 1960s.  Catch The Invisible Revealed at the Powerhouse Museum until May 2022. Find out more information and plan your visit here.

Robert Rosen: Glitterati

  • Photography

Take a peek into the glittering four decade long career of one of Australia’s foremost social photographers. In his heyday, Robert Rosen attended parties, concerts, fashion events and nightclubs across London, Europe and Australia. He documented the famous and infamous from Sydney's spectacular Rat Parties in the 1980s to the exclusive Australian Fashion Week events. A participant observer and the antithesis of the pushy paparazzi stereotype, Rosen was known for being polite and discreet, intimately capturing the rich, famous and fabulous for the social pages of a slew of local and international newspapers and magazines. Glitterati presents over 974 photographs and includes images from Rosen’s early career in London and Paris capturing the fashion shows of iconic designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Claude Montana and Zandra Rhodes. You’ll also spot an eclectic mix of celebrities in his photographs at peak moments of their cultural impact, including Paul McCartney, Bryan Ferry, Elle McPherson, Peter Morrissey, Divine, Paul Capsis, Nina Simone, Boy George, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Luciano Pavarotti, Lady Sonia McMahon, Elton John and Michael Hutchence. Glitterati is open at the Powerhouse Museum until June 19 2022. Admission is free with museum entry.

Clay Dynasty

Functional and beautiful clay objects have been at the epicentre of human culture ever since the first owner of an opposable thumb worked out how to whack water and dirt together. Australia's history with the form has evolved through utilitarian and aesthetic waves too. Clay Dynasty is a huge exhibition that sets to chart ceramic practice in our country while peering into the exciting future of contemporary ceramic artists. Head to the Powerhouse Museum to see over 400 clay pieces from the museum's collection alongside 70 new works from Australian artists. Clay Dynasty will take a trip through some of the earliest examples of pottery from First Nations makers through to the groovy modernist experiments from proto-feminist Australians and beyond. The exhibition will show pieces from 160 artists and makers from the last 50 years of ceramic studio practice. See famous works from the likes of Margaret Dodd, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Joan Ground and pieces from Darwin's Bagot Pottery brought to light and air after years of storage in the Powerhouse collection. And marvel at the lines of innovation and style that have made an impact on contemporary practitioners like Lynda Draper, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Carlene Thompson and more.  Powerhouse Museum will also be hosting a symposium and has developed a range of exhibition–inspired masterclasses in collaboration with local ceramic studios, including studios and Hermannsburg Potters, with more masterclasses to come. Keep your


  • Design

The ubiquitous gum tree gets the artistic celebration it truly deserves with a new exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Drawing on over 400 objects from the museum's vast collection, Eucalyptusdom explores our changing relationship to the local hardwood, and artists’ many creative uses of the material. The exhibition is free to visit with general museum entry.  Running until August 2022, the exhibition takes its title from a 1930s text by Edward F Swain, one of Australia’s earliest conservationists. The show highlights the relationship between eucalypts and First Nations Australians, the trees’ important role in the Federation arts and crafts movement, plus the Powerhouse Museum’s unique and longstanding relationship with the eucalypt. Rarely seen items you’ll be able to have a gander at include over 100 timber specimens dating from the 1800s, botanical illustrations and early glass-plate photographs. It also showcases 17 new commissions, including from Trawlwoolway multidisciplinary artist Julie Gough. She documents eucalypt trees situated in the vicinity of sites of conflict and violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal people and colonists from the late 1700s to early 1800s. There’s also a work by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, working with Wiradjuri Elder Dr Uncle Stan Grant Sr AM, that considers the connection to the guardian ancestor Dharramalin, central to men’s initiation ceremonies. Nicholas Mangan’s new work analyses the complex history of objects in the Pow

Powerhouse Late

  • Pop-up locations

Good news culture fans: Ultimo's magnificent Powerhouse Museum is keeping the doors open after hours for Thursday evening soirées from February and through to June. If you’re feeling adventurous after you knock off work, wander over to the Powerhouse for an event program that’s a little bit educational, a little bit of a party, and very cool all over. Each night Jordan Gogos, founder of extreme fashion label Iordanes Spyridon Gogos, will present an art installation at the museum entrance, while FBi Radio will curate music for the Powerhouse Late Bar. Powerhouse Late events go 5-9pm and entry is free, no booking required. Here are some dates for your diary: Thu May 5 – Powerhouse Late: 100 Climate ConversationsJoin climate leaders for immersive talks around the museum as they re-examine icons such as the Boulton and Watt steam engine, the Powerhouse Ultimo building itself as a former coal-powered station and the industrial revolution and transport galleries.  Thu May 12 – Powerhouse Late: Iordanes Spyridon GogosJordan Gogos’ curation will spill out into the whole Powerhouse with fashion showcases, screenings and visuals that celebrate community, collaboration, sustainability and wearable art. See art by Clair Helen, photographs of the fashion of Iordanes Spyridon Gogos collaborators, photography by Joe Brennan and Anna Pogossova, projections by Denis Vukcevic and projections of the Powerhouse fashion collection.  Thu May 19 – Powerhouse Late: Sydney Writers' FestivalJoin Tony

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