Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Icons on display

1928 Bugatti driven to victory by Arthur Terdich at the 1929 Australian Grand Prix. Supplied: MAAS.

Rachel Pupazzoni, Today’s icons on display in Powerhouse Museum’s latest exhibition, ABC News,

Have you ever explored a museum exhibition and wondered, “how do they know which items are worth collecting?” — I have.

So when I talked to Jacqui Strecker, the head of curatorial at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, it was one of the first questions I asked.

She had just pieced together a new exhibition entitled Icons at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

It is a kind of “best of the best” exhibition of the more than 500,000 items in the News South Wales collection.

The 70 rarely-displayed items, chosen by Dr Strecker, have been put together to challenge the traditional stereotype of an icon.

“Traditionally, we’ve associated icons with religious paintings that have a special spiritual power, that draws us to those items as an object of worship or admiration,” she said.

“Now we understand icons as digital icons that help us navigate our way around computers and smart phones.

“What I’ve done with this exhibition is really gone through our basement, our extraordinary collection, and I’ve chosen my favourite objects that I think tell an interesting story and are really worth looking at and challenging the viewer to think about what constitutes an icon today.”

The items range from Aboriginal pottery; a silver, brass and wooden crucifix worn on a necklace; a 1928 Bugatti racing car (so valuable Dr Strecker would not tell me how much it was worth); Australian performer Johnny O’Keefe’s red suit and the Olympic torch Cathy Freeman used to light the cauldron at the Sydney Olympics.

“I’ve had a lot of fun selecting objects around the themes of spirituality, genius, status, value, luxury and celebrity,” said Dr Strecker.

Icons opens at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on October 15. It will become a permanent exhibition.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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