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A Huge Exhibition of Korean Buddhist Statues Is Coming to Sydney's Powerhouse Museum

They're part of the site's hefty 2021 lineup, alongside exhibitions dedicated to tiny automobiles, gum trees, Australian ceramics, and Persian arts and crafts.
By Sarah Ward
February 09, 2021
By Sarah Ward
February 09, 2021

Back in 2001, in the ruins of Changnyeongsa Temple in Yeongwol in Gangwon-do Province, South Korea, more than 300 statues were found. Each stone sculpture depicts an arhat — the name given to followers of Buddha who've achieved the enlightened state of nirvana — and they're all thought to date back 500 years. The collection was dubbed 'The Five Hundred Arhats', in fact, after Buddha's 500 disciples. Also, every figure's face conveys a lifelike emotion. And, Australians will be able to see a selection of them without leaving the country thanks to Sydney's Powerhouse Museum.

From December 3, 2021, the Five Hundred Arhats exhibition will put a number of the figures on display in Ultimo, incorporating them into an installation created by artist Kim Seung Young. They'll be surrounded by 700 audio speakers, in a piece that's designed to suggest that "the arhats are meditating in an attitude of intimate, reclusive poise amidst a cacophony that evokes the distracting bustle of urban life".

The big summer showcase will be presented in collaboration with Chuncheon National Museum and National Museum of Korea — and it's just one of Powerhouse Museum's 2021 highlights. The Sydney venue has unveiled its full program for the year, spanning everything from tiny automobiles and gum trees to Australian ceramics and Persian arts and crafts.

Bayram Ali, Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, Powerhouse Collection

On display from today, Tuesday, February 9, is Bayram Ali. It features images of Australia's Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme from the 50s to the 70s, as taken by the Turkish Cypriot migrant and amateur photographer who gives the exhibition its title. Also skewing local, Clay Dynasty will show more than 300 items from Powerhouse's Aussie ceramics collection, in a showcase that'll celebrate 50 years of Australian studio ceramics. Opening on May 28, it'll feature 20 newly commissioned pieces, too.

From June 11, 100 Conversations will focus on climate change via an exhibition and talks program. On the bill: live discussions with leading Australian innovators acting on climate change, as well as an evolving exhibition that documents the public conversations. Also in June, Eucalyptusdom is set to explore stories surrounding gum trees, including their importance to Indigenous Australians. Expect to see pieces from Powerhouse's collection, plus new works by Dean Cross, Luna Mrozik Gawler, Julie Gough, Vera Hong, Anna May Kirk, Nicholas Mangan, Yasmin Smith, Sera Waters and Damien Wright with Bonhula Yunupingu.

Paul and Linda McCartney, Abbey Rd Studios, London, 1982. Photo: Robert Rosen.

Also on Powerhouse's agenda is Iranzamin, from March 19, which'll mark the first time that Powerhouse has put together an exhibition of Persian arts and crafts from its own range. And, from June 11, Microcars will focus on tiny vehicles — with more than 17 automobiles on display from Europe, Japan, the UK and Australia.

Australian portrait and social pages photographer Robert Rosen will be in the spotlight from August 6, thanks to Glitterati: 20 years of Social Photography. From September 14, Powerhouse will highlight 20th century designers such as Douglas Annand, Frances Burke and Arthur Leydin in an exhibition called Graphic Identities.

Throughout 2021, Electric Keys will also explore the influence of electric keyboards on soul jazz, blues, rock, progressive rock and pop, and The Invisible Revealed will let visitors see nuclear-beam scans of objects from Powerhouse's collection. There's also Future Fashion, a showcase the work of top graduates from four Sydney-based fashion design schools.

Five Hundred Arhats displays at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo from December 3, 2021. For further details — or to find out more about the museum's full 2021 slate — visit its website.

Top image: Five Hundred Arhats, Chuncheon National Museum.

Published on February 09, 2021 by Sarah Ward


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