Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Powerhouse’s ‘1001 Remarkable Objects’

Edo-period samurai warrior’s armour.

Sarah Ward, Powerhouse Museum’s Next Huge Exhibition Will Display 1001 Remarkable Objects From Its Collection, Concrete Playground, 4 April 2023

Kylie Minogue’s Sydney 2000 Olympics costume, one of Nicole Kidman’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’ dresses, an Edo-period samurai warrior’s armour — they’ll all be on show.

In our own ways, we all fill our homes with interesting items. That’s what galleries and museums obviously do, too. Imagine what must sit in their collections — the things they can’t always display, and often don’t, but are worth holding onto for an array of reasons. Actually, hit up Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in the second half of 2023 and you’ll no longer simply have to wonder.

The Ultimo venue has just announced its next huge exhibition: 1001 Remarkable Objects. That title is indeed descriptive, with the site’s curators, led by curatorium chair Leo Schofield AM, diving into its vast store of pieces. Showcasing 1001 items might sound hefty, but there’s a whopping 500,000 in the full collection, making those selections tricky work.

Supreme’ mouse-trap making machine by AW Standfield and Co, Mascot, NSW, 1925-2000. Image: Anthony Potter.

Opening on Saturday, July 22, free to attend, and worth a look whether you’re a Sydney local or making a trip to the Harbour City, this exhibition will span a wide variety of objects — celebrity-worn outfits, mousetrap-making machines, ceramic peacock and more.

“Our vision for 1001 Remarkable Objects was a seemingly simple one: to create an exhibition celebrating the sheer scale, breadth and relevance of the Powerhouse collection. But how to choose?” said Schofield.

“We rejected the nomenclature of ‘treasures’ or ‘masterpieces’ and instead determined all choices must be in some way ‘remarkable’ — whether by virtue of rarity, visual appeal, social history or an ability to invoke wonder. The result is a cornucopia of eras, styles, form, function, size and colour, to stoke memories that so many have of this iconic institution and signal the beginning of a new phase in its marvellous existence.”

Performance costumes, ‘Fruity Mambo’, designed by Catherine Martin, made by Catherine Martin and Rosie Boylan, for Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2014. Image: Laura Moore.

Four certain highlights all were once donned by someone, well-known names and samurais alike. Kylie Minogue’s Sydney 2000 Olympics ‘showgirl’ costume will be on display, as will Nicole Kidman’s ‘pink diamonds’ Moulin Rouge! dress and, still on Baz Luhrmann, the ‘fruity mambo’ costumes from Strictly Ballroom the Musical. Or, you can peer at an Edo-period samurai warrior’s armour.

Featuring pieces that’ve never been shown before, and filling 25 rooms, Schofield’s selections also cover the only surviving fragment of the Lockheed Altair aircraft Lady Southern Cross that Sir Charles Kingsford Smith flew in 1935 on his final flight, that 1.5-metre-tall peacock from 1870s, a Detroit Electric car made in 1917 and part of the original transatlantic cable from 1858.

And, there are more than 100 pieces of jewellery, including mourning pieces crafted from human hair — and a focus on glass, as gleaming through French and Venetian examples from the 1800 and 1900s, plus Australian and international glass artworks.

Diamond brooch in the form of a bee with sapphires on his head and in stripes across his body and with ruby eyes, gold settings. English c.1870. Image: Marinco Kojdanovski.

See also: 1001 Remarkable Objects

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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