Chau Chak Wing Museum - review by Rusty Compass
Sydney | see and do guide

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Chau Chak Wing Museum

| 07 Feb 2021
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Chau Chak Wing Museum
Sydney University, Parramatta Rd, Camperdown
7 days
Free
07 Feb 2021

The Chau Chak Wing Museum opened in late 2020. It's Sydney's newest museum and one of its best. Located on the campus of Sydney University, it brings together the university's three old museums in a single gleaming new complex. Admission is free.

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If the measure of a good museum is how many little impulses of curiosity it induces, the Chau Chak Wing Museum is on the right track.

It's a brain twisting experience across 4 floors of everything from Australian 19th and 20th century art to Indigenous Australian cultural objects, Egypt and the Mediterranean, to Australian natural history and a China gallery.

Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
 
Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Thylacine aka. Tasmanian Devil - Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
 
Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney


Like me, you'll probably find yourself needing a few visits to feel like you've digested things. After 3 visits I'm sure I'd still find things of interest on a return.

The Chau Chak Wing Museum is a superbly curated and presented monument to Sydney University's 19th century quest to be a prestigious place of learning with international standing. The university was building collections that would impress the 19th century mind. That's when many of the artefacts on display were collected - or stolen. I'm guessing quite a bit of the 19th century taxidermy followed the needless slaughter of animals too.

It would have been good to see a more self-aware appraisal of the values that created these collections in the 19th century.

The China exhibition is a highlight but from memory, South East Asia and the Pacific - our neighbourhood - are largely missing. 19th century prejudices die hard.

The Chau Chak Wing Museum is the result of the philanthropy of the Chinese Australian property developer of the same name. Chau has been a prolific donor to Australian universities and political parties. His alleged associations with the Chinese Communist Party have resulted in controversy and he has been in the press in 2021 following a high-profile defamation case.


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Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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