Exciting new program celebrates Australian modernism

An exciting new program of exhibitions, tours and talks is currently underway at Sydney Living Museums. A Modernist Season celebrates the era’s signature elements and the creators, designers, architects and craftspeople who helped shape modernism in Sydney.

Executive Director Mark Goggin commented: “This winter, Sydney Living Museums presents a new dynamic and creative program, A Modernist Season, offering a broad exploration and experience of mid-20th century architecture and design as an important part of Sydney’s heritage.”

Modernism flourished during 1920 – 30s, mostly in Europe. A wave of migrant designers and architects coming to Australia during and after World War II brought with them their training and experience to usher in a new expression for Australian homes and buildings. Some signature features of modernist design are clean lines, uncluttered, open-plan layouts, fluidity between outdoor and indoor spaces, split levels, lightweight furniture, low maintenance materials and mass produced products.

A Modernist Season, which opened in July, is a program of exhibitions and talks at Rose Seidler House and the Museum of Sydney along with exclusive tours of some of the best examples of modernist private homes in Sydney.

“There is a resurgence of interest in the modernist aesthetic not just because of its timeless principles of simplicity and functionality, it also tells very personal stories behind our heritage,” said Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon, Director Strategy & Engagement, Sydney Living Museums.

“Some of the individuals featured in A Modernist Season are still well known today while others, many of the émigré designers and architects, are now virtually forgotten. We want people to immerse themselves in this hugely important period of creativity in Sydney and explore the creatives who championed this fresh, new look of design and architecture.”

A Modernist Season has already begun with two exhibitions at the Museum of Sydney: The Moderns – exploring the influence of émigré designers on Australian architecture and design; and Marion Hall Best – taking an intimate look at the pioneering role and impact of interior designer Marion Hall Best.

Later this month is Mad About Modernism, a mini day-long festival of talks and tours celebrating all aspects of modernism at Rose Seidler House.

Mad About Modernism program highlights:

  • Modernism Inside and Out author and curator Karen McCartney will lead a panel of contemporary architects
    and collectors looking at the importance of integrating interior and exterior design in the modernist aesthetic.
  • Tim Ross will be in conversation with noted architect, author, educator, Tone Wheeler, to explore why interest in modernism is back. Other talks, by special guest architects and heritage experts, will reveal the impact and unique characteristics of modernism on Australian art and modernist architecture.
  • Curated tour of the iconic Rose Seidler House and exclusive house tours of privately owned homes where visitors can explore the work of some of Australia’s notable modernist architects including the spectacular ‘Killara’ home to Harry and Penelope Seidler.
  • In addition to talks and curator-led tours, visitors are invited to see the modernist world through the eyes of Rose Seidler House’s artist-in-residence, internationally acclaimed illustrator James Gulliver Hancock. Every Sunday in August, James draws the house’s interiors and exteriors and shares his skills by inviting visitors to try their hand at drawing.



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