MCA Australia and Power Institute announce new research partnership

Museum-of-Contemporary-Art-Australia-and-Power-Institute-staff-photo-by-Marcus-WrightThe Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia) and the Power Institute at the University of Sydney announce a new research partnership on contemporary art and visual culture. The project’s bold ambition is to establish a new way of conducting and presenting research on art and visual culture.

Over three years, the two organisations will identify a set of discrete research projects, digging into the Museum’s collection, exhibitions and archives, and informed by the ideas emerging from the Power Institute’s new Visual Understanding Initiative.

This work will be aided by a local and international network of curators, artists, and scholars from across the humanities and sciences. The partnership aims to not only unearth new ideas, but to produce new ways of thinking that will inform both organisations’ work into the future.

Along the way, audiences will be invited to join the conversation through public lectures, seminars and other events, as well as through publications and digital offerings.

In 2023, for example, MCA Australia and the Power Institute will present Image Complex 2023 – a free public lecture series bringing together leading thinkers of visual culture from around the world to discuss the subjects of art, visuality and power.

This partnership signifies a renewed alignment between the MCA Australia and the Power Institute, enlivening their shared history of research, interpretation and presentation of contemporary art for broad and diverse audiences.

The organisations both owe their existence to a bequest made in 1962 to the University of Sydney by Australian expatriate artist John Joseph Wardell Power (1881–1943). The goal of the bequest was to connect the Australian public with the most important ideas in art and visual culture from around the world.

This led to the creation of not only the Power Institute, with its public programs and publications, but also the discipline of art history at the University of Sydney, as well as a collection of contemporary art and a dedicated museum to house it.

In 1991 that museum became the MCA, today Australia’s leading museum of contemporary art, dedicated to exhibiting, collecting, and engaging the work of living artists.

“This new partnership with the Power Institute is a natural fit for the MCA Australia which is a defining platform for contemporary art and ideas in Australia,” said Suzanne Cotter, Director Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

“Our two institutions have a shared history through the vision of J.W. Power who believed in the power of art to broaden horizons and inspire artists and the broader public.”

“We are thrilled to be able to bring together what MCA Australia and the Power Institute do best in making contemporary art a visible and accessible catalyst for research and understanding,” said Ms Cotter.

“We are delighted to be partnering with the MCA Australia on research initiatives that will explore fundamental questions of art and visual understanding in the twenty-first century,” said Professor, Mark Ledbury, Director Power Institute, University of Sydney.

We’re all very much looking forward to working closely with the diverse and brilliant team of curators and staff at the MCA and our collaboration will focus on the vital role contemporary art practice plays in helping us understand how we see the world,” said Professor Ledbury

The Image Complex 2023 lecture series includes:

  • Nick Mirzoeff: The Strike Against White Sight is a Feminist Strike (Thursday 27 April – online);
  • Orit Halpern: Smart Power (Thursday 11 May – online);
  • Krista Thompson: The Evidence of Things Not Captured; Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and the fugitive photograph in postcolonial Jamaica (Thursday 3 August – online); and
  • Jack Halberstam: All Fall Down: Post-Industrial Demolition Projects and the Aesthetic of Collapse (Friday 15 December – at MCA Australia)

For more information and to register or view any of the Image Complex 2023 lectures, visit: or for details.

Image: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Power Institute staff: Lara Strongman, Director, Curatorial and Digital MCA Australia, Suzanne Cotter, Director Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Professor Mark Ledbury, Director Power Institute, University of Sydney; Marni Williams, Publications Manager Power Institute & Nick Croggon Events and Programs Officer Power Institute; Jane Devery, Senior Curator, MCA Australia & John Saxby, Senior Editor & Publications Manager, MCA Australia – photo by Marcus Wright