MCA History

Located on one of the world’s most spectacular sites on the edge of Sydney Harbour, the Museum of Contemporary Art opened its doors to the public in November 1991. Established through a bequest by Australian expatriate artist John Power (1881-1943), who left his personal fortune to the University of Sydney to inform and educate Australians about international contemporary visual art, the MCA is dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and interpreting contemporary art.

The vision of the founding Director Leon Paroissien and Chief Curator Bernice Murphy was manifest from its earliest years – a commitment to innovative programming with ground-breaking exhibitions of contemporary art from Australia, the Asia Pacific region and around the world.

In 1998, the first phase of expansion began when the Museum had access to the whole building and created galleries for solo exhibitions by Australian artists. In 2001, the New South Wales Government and the Australia Council replaced the University of Sydney and the Power Bequest as key stakeholders.

A strong emphasis on making the MCA a museum that engages artists with audiences led to a program of significant solo shows by Australian and international artists as well as thematic and group exhibitions. The MCA is a major partner of the Biennale of Sydney. Attendances increased to over 580,000 in 2010, leading to the need for further expansion.

The MCA also sought to engage with audiences beyond the building by developing a program of touring exhibitions and C3West, a collaboration with galleries and non-arts partners in Western Sydney.

Today, the MCA houses an entire floor dedicated to the MCA Collection, offering a major national resource for education and interpretative programs, as well as two floors of galleries for exhibitions. The National Centre for Creative Learning includes a library, digital and multimedia studios, a seminar room and lecture theatre. The MCA also presents new site-specific commissions.

MCA Building