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Ancient and contemporary cultures explored through artworks, artefacts and diverse perspectives
From Indigenous artworks to natural history showcases, below are the first seven of 18 exhibitions announced as part of the Chau Chak Wing Museum's 2020 opening program.
Red and black cockatoo feather fan

Gululu dhuwala djalkiri: welcome to the Yolŋu foundations
David Daymirriŋu Malangi (1927–1999)
Manharrŋu clan, Dhuwa moiety, Yolŋu people

Biw’yunnaraw warrakan ŋaṯili dawurr
(black cockatoo feather fan) c.1984
feathers, beeswax, wood
University Art Collection, J Power Bequest


Gululu dhuwala djalkiri: welcome to the Yolŋu foundations

With a timeline stretching back to the 1920s, this major survey of artworks by the Yolŋu peoples of eastern Arnhem Land represents generations of art and artists from the Milingimbi, Ramingining and Yirrkala communities. Presented in the 400sqm temporary gallery, Gululu dhuwala djalkiri reveals the clan lineages, inheritance, and continuities within 100 years of Yolŋu art. Produced in collaboration with Yolŋu, the exhibition is a unique opportunity to share in their knowledge and art inheritance.

Landscape painting of hills and ocean

Grace Cossington Smith
Northern Beach, 1931
oil on board
36.4 x 41.5 cm
The Hon R P Meagher bequest, donated 2011
University Art Collection
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith



This exhibition examines a broad group of artists’ profoundly different responses to the space where land meets sea. Over centuries, artists have represented the sea’s changing appearance and meaning – sometimes as part of a journey, sometimes as a site of contact, contemplation or pleasure. Today, with rising sea levels and eroding shorelines, the coastline has become a highly charged space demarcating potential zones of conflict and loss. Coastline draws on the University Art Collection and features artists including Grace Cossington Smith (pictured), Arthur Streeton and J W Power.

Pink cockatoo

Natural Selections: animal worlds
Cacatua leadbeateri (Vigors, 1831)
Widyagala [Wiradjuri language], Leadbeater's cockatoo
Collected c. 1880
Donated by Macleay Family 1865-1892
Macleay Collections

Natural Selections: animal worlds

Trade, wonder and order drove human interest in collecting animal specimens in the nineteenth century. As museum collections formed and grew they had an immense impact on how we understand the world today. The Natural Selections exhibition draws us into the study of natural history and how museum collections continue to contribute to our understanding of species, their classification and their geographic distributions. 

Model of the Acropolis of Athens bathed in darkness and speckled light

Contemporary art projects #1
Daniel Boyd
Installation using a model of the Acropolis at Athens.


Daniel Boyd: contemporary art projects #1

Renowned Indigenous Australian artist Daniel Boyd will present a new project, the first in a series of commissions that invite contemporary artists to engage with the University’s collections. Boyd’s installation reflects upon the origins of the museum as a product of the Enlightenment. He will present selections from across the museum’s diverse collections, displayed within a mirrored installation to reveal the multiplicity of meanings contained within a single object.

Woman poses for black and white photographic portrait

The Business of Photography: the 19th century studio
[Portrait of a woman]
Photograph: GF Jenkinson, Broken Hill
Donated by Sandra Savides, 2014
Macleay Collections


The Business of Photography: the 19th century studio

The commercial opportunities of photography were quickly realised in 19th century New South Wales. Then a new technology, Sydney’s first photographic studio opened in 1842 and commercial photographers soon established an ongoing presence as populations and prosperity grew after the 1850s gold rushes. From the small-scale travelling photographer with a portable darkroom to large-scale industrial enterprises by the end of the century, this exhibition draws from the historic photography collection to examine the role of the commercial studio in 19th century Australia.

Marble head of a woman

Roman Spectres

Fragments of identity can be traced in broken and incomplete sculptures, ceramics, and mosaics. Featuring objects from our collection of Roman antiquities, Roman Spectres examines portraiture and funerary inscriptions to discover poignant glimpses into individual stories from the vibrant ancient Roman world.

Image: Marble head of a woman
Roman, 1st century AD 
The Hon R P Meagher bequest, donated 2011, Nicholson Collection.

Egyptian mummy

The Mummy Room 
Coffin of the scribe Padiashaikhet
Thebes, Egypt, 25th Dynasty (725-700 BC)
Donated by Sir Charles Nicholson 1860
Nicholson Collection


The Mummy Room 

Ancient Egyptians believed in life after death, but only if their bodies were preserved in a lifelike form. Mummification was a practical response to this spiritual problem. This permanent display presents the coffins and mummies of four people who lived in Egypt between 1000 BC to AD 100. The latest technology, including CT imaging, provides new insights into these ancient objects, helping us to understand more about each mummy – their age and beliefs, even their medical conditions.

Featured image (top of the page): From Coastline, Emanuel Phillips Fox, On a French beach c.1909. Oil on board, 25.3 x 33 cm, Neville Holmes Grace bequest, 2018.