End of Year Message 2023

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A message from Mark Ledbury, Director of the Power Institute

Slight edit of JW Power, Self portrait, c1920, Chau Chak Wing Museum, PW1961.8.

Welcome to our end of year round-up! I hope that some of you will have attended our last events of the year with Jack Halberstam, wrapping up what’s been another packed year here at the Power Institute.  

I’ll begin with some grateful farewells. In May Susan Thomas departed for a well-earned retirement. Over her more than twelve years of service, Susan's deep knowledge and generosity were the cornerstones for the Power Institute's daily operations, and they are now sorely missed. August  saw the retirement of Anthony Green, the Senior Librarian at the Schaeffer Fine Arts Library, who for more than two decades did so much to organise and catalogue the Library's collections and keep it accessible—thanks Tony, and we wish you the very best for your retirement. We also said farewell to two talented publications staff, Naomi Riddle and Tom Melick, and we thank them for all their work seeing several key books through to publication. We wish both of them well as they return to studies and pursue their artistic and intellectual goals.

To temper these sad departures we have some exciting new additions to our team. Last month we welcomed a new Senior Librarian, M. Sajid Foazdar. Sajid joins us with a wealth of experience from Dubai and Wollongong, and has many ideas to help us keep the Schaeffer special and moving forward with new student and research needs. We also welcome Michelle Montgomery and Lachlan Thompson, who are helping us not only with a rush of publications launching in 2024 but also with longer-term projects related to our new and exciting Visual Understanding Initiative (VUI)—more about all of these below!  

This year has been notable for the presence of the fabulous Gerald McMaster, an esteemed Plains Cree scholar, artist, and curator, and our first Terra Visiting Professor of First Nations Art. Gerald taught a course for our third-year students and convened the Kāmawāpātahmōwin: Indigenous Visual Knowledge series, co-presented with Wapatah Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge. We also eagerly await the arrival of Julie Nagam, who will be our second Terra Professor to visit.

We also welcomed Melody Rod-Ari as the inaugural Sydney Asian Art Series Scholar in Residence, marking a new phase in our partnership with VisAsia at the AGNSW. I  would like here to note the sad passing of our much-loved colleague Kavita Singh, who was part of the 2023 series, convened by Olivier Krischer with Alex Burchmore. Kavita was one of the most important and brilliant historians of South Asian art and of museums, and a leading voice on the postcolonial dilemmas of our discipline.  Olivier and I wrote a longer note on Dr Singh's passing here.

This year saw Marni and I confirm major philanthropic support for the VUI, including six years of funding that will enable us to explore big questions of how we see and how our visual world is organised. We’ll be bringing together a diverse group of local and international colleagues in August to help set the agenda when we partner with the Museum of Contemporary Art to present a major forum on the contemporary art, politics, and science of seeing. The event will also mark a key milestone in the Visual Research Program, a three-year collaboration between Power and the MCA.   

We’re looking ahead to a bumper year for events and publications so watch out for our program announcement in the New Year.  You can now browse upcoming events and past recordings, explore residency programs and opportunities, and discover our books and research projects from our new website, powerinstitute.org.au

I would like to thank our Foundation Council Chair, Susan Acret, and our energetic Council members who helped us to realise significant fundraising goals in 2023. Thanks also to all those who have attended events online and in person—your continued enthusiasm and engagement keeps us committed to our mission to explore and explain the vital place of art in culture and society.  

Most  especially, I would like to say a big thank you to Marni, Nick, Lachlan, Michelle, Naomi, Tom, Tony, Nick and Sajid, the  brilliant and indefatigable Power team in 2023 who continued to  make things happen in such a professional, fun and inspiring way,  and with whom it’s been a delight to work. 

I wish you all a happy and restful Christmas Holiday season, and a peaceful and joyful New Year.  

Mark Ledbury

Director, The Power Institute

Susan Thomas's retirement celebration

Susan Thomas's retirement celebration, May 2023.

Gerald McMaster and Melody Rod-ari at their welcome reception

Welcome reception for Gerald McMaster and Melody Rod-ari, September 2023.

Melody Rod-ari and Olivier Krischer sit on a stage in conversation

Melody Rod-ari and Olivier Krischer in conversation, Art Gallery of NSW, September 2023.

Gerald McMaster speaking during the panel conversation "Indigenous Visual Knowledge and Country"

Gerald McMaster, Jazz Money and Lynette Riley, during "Indigenous Visual Knowledge", SCA Gallery, November 2023.