Women in Power is a free University Art Gallery exhibition based on the bequest of JW Power. Celebrating women artists, the exhibition has brought together fourteen influential women to select their favourite artwork by a female from the University of Sydney’s JW Power Collection. Among the international and Australian artists are Martha Boto, Bridget Riley and a group of Yolngu women from Arnhem Land.

The works have been chosen by women from the arts, art philanthropy, law and business. They include High Court Justice Virginia Bell AC, University of Sydney Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM, Emeritus Professor Virginia Spate, Professor Larissa Behrendt, past and present MCA directors Bernice Murphy and Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, artist Mikala Dwyer, curators and Power alumni Julie Ewington and Linda Michael, and arts benefactors Dr Gene Sherman AM, Lynette Fern, Penelope Seidler AM and Naomi Milgrom AO.

Each selector has discussed their choice of artwork in the exhibition’s catalogue.

‘My selection … was inspired by my interest in women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and our need to create more opportunities for women in these fields,’ writes Belinda Hutchinson.

Virginia Bell relates her choices of Ramingining collecting bags to nine mortuary poles—also created by the Yolngu people—which stand in the foyer of the High Court. The latter was a gift from the descendants of Yolngu man Dhakiyarr, whose murder trial was acquitted in 1934 because it was believed sensational publicity around the case made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

While the exhibition includes major works, University Art Gallery Senior Curator Ann Stephen notes that only 13.6 per cent (fewer than 230) of the works in the Power Collection are by women, a statistic she calls ‘dismal’. The Power Collection was acquired between 1967 and 1989, a time that Stephen says was marked by change following the second wave of feminism.

‘This exhibition nonetheless entails a theme of empowerment,’ says Stephen, ‘as it offers a thumbnail sketch of the crucial era when, for the first time, women artists became a major presence in contemporary art.’



Women in Power
7 December 2015 – 8 April 2016
University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, Quadrangle, Science Road



Jocelyn Prasad
E: jocelyn.prasad@sydney.edu.au