The J W Power Collection was established through the JW Power Bequest to the University of Sydney and consists of a total of 3,060 works acquired between 1967 and 1989 by curators of the Power Gallery of the University of Sydney. The late John Joseph Wardell Power (1881-1943), was a medical graduate of the University of Sydney, an expatriate artist and collector who lived and worked in Europe until his death. He was a visionary benefactor, and bequeathed to the University of Sydney funds ‘…to make available to the people of Australia the latest ideas and theories … of the most recent contemporary art of the world and by creation of schools lecture halls museums and other places for the purpose … of suitably housing the works purchased so as to bring the people of Australia in more direct touch with the latest art developments in other countries..’ [1939 Will of John Power].
His bequest was unknown until the death of his wife in 1961. At that time it was the largest monetary bequest – approximately two million pounds in shares – ever received by the University of Sydney or by any arts body. In 1965 the University Senate approved of the establishment of the Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, together with the Power Department of Fine Arts and the Power Research Library of Contemporary Art. The Power Institute, the combination of components, was duly formed. The Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1989 to deliver the ‘museum’ aspect of John Power’s desire to bring international contemporary art to Australia. The Power Bequest initially provided core funding for the new MCA. For further information on the Bequest, the University of Sydney and the establishment of the MCA and its early years, see Bernice Murphy, Vision & Context, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 1993.
The JW Power Collection features works by Australian and international artists including kinetic work from the 1960s and 1970s, Op Art, Pop Art, Minimalist works, performance pieces and more recent works from 1980s. It also includes 1,103 paintings, oil sketches and drawings by John Power himself.
An important sub-group the JW Power Collection is The Ramingining Collection of Aboriginal Art.