Cornelia Parker

AAR MCA Cornelia Parker - photo by Jessica TaylorPresented as part of the tenth edition of the Sydney International Art Series, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia presents the first survey exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere by acclaimed British artist, Cornelia Parker.

One of the most important artists working today, Cornelia Parker OBE is known for her transformation of everyday objects into unexpected, haunting scenarios – things are exploded, shot, turned back to front and rearranged in often surprising ways. Working with sculpture and installation, as well as drawing, photography and film, Parker subjects hang at the very moment of their transformation, suspended in time and completely still.

Curated by MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent, Cornelia Parker is the first major presentation of the artist’s work in Australia and encompasses over 40 artworks from the late 1980s to the present. Spanning three decades of the artist’s practice, this Sydney-exclusive brings together new and recent artworks with significant loans from major public and private collections, including two large-scale installations Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View and Thirty Pieces of Silver from the Tate Collection, UK.

“We are thrilled to introduce Australian audiences to British artist Cornelia Parker, whose installations and sculptures have fascinated audiences wherever they have been shown,” said MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE. “Her blown-up shed, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, is regularly named by visitors as their favourite work in the Tate Collection. Australian audiences will have the opportunity to see the work of one of the most important female artists working today.”

Highlights of the exhibition include the installation Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991), an ordinary garden shed that has been blown up by the British Army and reconfigured by Parker into a mass of burnt wooden shards and household objects. Suspended from the ceiling with a single light bulb at the centre, it casts dramatic shadows across the gallery walls and floor.

Other highlights include Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988–89), featuring thirty suspended pools of silverware collected by Parker from friends, car boot sales and charity shops, then flattened by a steamroller; and Subconscious of a Monument (2001–05) comprising thousands of dried lumps of earth excavated by engineers from under the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

In her installation War Room (2015), Parker salvages discarded strips of red paper from the Poppy Factory in Richmond, London, which produces Remembrance Poppies to memorialise the Great War of 1914–18. The paper is perforated by over 30,000 holes where the poppy shapes have been removed; their absences recall human lives lost in conflict.

Also included in the exhibition is Magna Carta (An Embroidery) (2015), a 12-metre long embroidery hand-stitched by over 200 individuals that recreates the Magna Carta Wikipedia entry, including British prison inmates and well-known individuals, such as Eliza Manningham-Buller (former head of M15), Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger (former editor of the Guardian UK), musician Jarvis Cocker and Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia).

Politics is a key theme in many of the artist’s recent works, and in 2017 Cornelia Parker was appointed as the first female Election Artist for the United Kingdom General Election. In this highly visible role, she observed the election campaign leading up to the 8 June vote, met with politicians, campaigners and voters and produced artworks in response.

Three works feature in the exhibition including Left Right & Centre (2017), which was filmed by a drone at night in the House of Commons, Westminster; Thatcher’s Finger (2018), a shadow-play featuring a sculpture of the former Prime Minister; and Election Abstract (2018) – a visual journal of Parker’s experiences of the snap election that were posted on the artist’s Instagram feed.

Cornelia Parker has presented numerous major commissions and solo exhibitions internationally over the last three decades, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2016), The Whitworth, Manchester (2015), British Library, London (2015), BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2010), Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru (2008), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2007) and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2006).

In 1997, the artist was the shortlisted for the Turner Prize, Tate and the following year, awarded ‘Best Show by an Emerging Artist’ by the International Association of Art Critics. Parker was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. She was awarded the Apollo Awards Artist of the Year in 2016, and in 2017 was appointed as the first female Election Artist for the United Kingdom General Election.

“Her work can be intimate as well as spectacular. Even her smallest works can be little mind bombs…” – The Guardian (UK)

Cornelia Parker
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 140 George Street, The Rocks (Sydney)
Exhibition continues to 16 February 2020
Entry fees apply

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Cornelia Parker at the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Image courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. © the artist – photo by Jessica Taylor