Powerhouse acquires Australian Centre for Photography
In a major win for photography in Australia, Sydney’s Powerhouse museum has announced the acquisition of the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP), some two years after the centre closed due to a shortage of funds and COVID restrictions.
The agreement will see Powerhouse, the major branch of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney, acquire ACP’s photography archive and fund, worth approximately $1.6 million, and operate under the new name of Powerhouse Photography.
The ACP opened in Paddington in 1974 as the first Government-funded national organisation for the promotion of photography in the country. Photographer David Moore conceived the Centre as a non-profit, cultural organisation, with aims to research, exhibit, publish, collect and encourage photography in Australia.
However, a perfect storm of COVID-19, a lack of funds and the rise of smartphone photography contributed to the Centre's 'hibernation' in 2019, with ACP Chairman, Michael Blomfield, describing the decision at the time as a 'painful one', with 21 staff affected.
Powerhouse Photography says it now hopes to continue the mission of the ACP through an ongoing series of programs, publications, learning and research activities dedicated to the promotion and development of photography in Australia.
In addition, the Powerhouse Photography annual program will include a photography research fellowship, tertiary internship program, contemporary photography acquisition program, and industry day.
The process of securing the ACP's future has been extensive, according to Blomfield.
‘Having completed community consultation over the last 18 months, the Board of the ACP is delighted to have partnered with the Powerhouse to secure the long-term future of the organisation’s mission and archive," he said.
"This innovative agreement ensures the founding goals of the ACP can be carried into the long-term future with an institution, and with an Advisory Group, that is deeply committed to securing and continuing our legacy."
The Advisory group that will oversee Powerhouse Photography is comprised of a number of well-regarded photographers and industry and community representatives. Co-chaired by photographer and University of Technology Sydney Associate Professor, Cherine Fahd and Powerhouse Senior Curator Sarah Rees, the panel includes photographer, filmmaker and ACP board member Merilyn Fairskye; Friends of ACP member Lisa Moore; photographer Garry Trinh; photographer Hugh Stewart; photographer Meng-Yu Yan; photographer Tom Blachford; Powerhouse Director First Nations Emily McDaniel; Powerhouse Head of Curatorial Jacqui Strecker; and Powerhouse Artistic Associate Zan Wimberley.
It is hoped the Advisory Group will connect Powerhouse to industry, and embed knowledge, insights and advice to inform curatorial strategies.
To mark the 50th anniversary of ACP in 2024, Powerhouse says it plans to deliver a curated digital program and a major publication on Australian photography via its publishing arm, Powerhouse Publishing.
‘The NSW government is thrilled the historic legacy of the ACP will be preserved by the Powerhouse. Photography is a vital part of the Australian arts landscape and this initiative has helped secure its future for years to come,’ Minister for the Arts Ben Franklin said.
"The Powerhouse Photography initiative declares photography’s cultural value at the precise moment we may have forgotten its significance in art and design, through to science, medicine, law, communication and commerce."
Powerhouse Chief Executive Lisa Havilah described the acquisition as a 'privilege'.
"For nearly 50 years, ACP has cemented the importance of photography in contemporary culture by championing a diverse range of artists. It’s our privilege to play a part in shaping the future of photographic practice in Australia," she said.