Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Darlinghurst Blog: Art and Culture: Sydney Mardi Gras Museum

The festive season has only just ended but the party season has already begun in Darlinghurst, following the launch last Friday of the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival when the rainbow flag was raised above Sydney Town Hall. 
This year the festival is marking its 35th anniversary with the 'Generations of Love' theme, a packed program of events and a temporary Sydney Mardi Gras Museum on Oxford Street, which has been a long-time coming.

The museum has some great window displays styled like a drag queen's dressing room, with shiny costumes, feather boas and mirrors. 
And I finally had a moment to pop in last night and take a look.
Inside, the museum is laid out chronologically and includes some fantastic archival photographs, memorabilia including posters and artwork, and a rainbow-coloured Ron Muncaster costume in the centre of the room.

I'm a big fan of Mr Muncaster for his daring and creative costumes, which in the early years of Mardi Gras helped set its festive and flamboyant tone. 
Mr Muncaster lives just down the road on Crown Street and I have had the honour of being invited to peruse his massive archives of costumes that fill the spare rooms in his large terrace house. 
He also loaned me one once when I had to go to a costume party and I may even be putting it on again soon to attend the launch of his new joint exhibition, with his partner Craig Craig, at the TAP Gallery next week.
That may be another story. But back to the museum.

The exhibition traces the roots of Sydney Mardi Gras, which began as a march down Oxford Street for international gay solidarity in 1978. The museum includes the original request from a group in San Francisco who asked for Sydneysiders to show their support for equality. 

That first march involved more than 500 people and resulted in 53 people being arrested when the march was broken up by police. The museum photograph above shows the police response to the march at Taylor Square in 1978.

That same view today shows just how much things have changed in the past 35 years with the same street now lined with Mardi Gras banners and rainbow flags. And since then the parade has grown to become more of a celebration of our diverse sexuality.

One of the highlights of the museum are the original artworks and photographs, which illustrate how a simple drawing of a rosella . . .

. . . is the inspiration for a marvellous costume:

It's all these great artifacts, like the Dykes on Bikes badges below, that really personalise the museum and bring the exhibition to life. 

While this is only a temporary museum, hopefully next year Sydney Mardi Gras will be able to open the doors to a permanent exhibition and museum space that can attract people all year round.
TONIGHT the museum is hosting a talk by photographer and Mardi Gras chronicler William Yang, who will be discussing the 1980s.
The guest speaker series continues on Monday 18 February with a talk by photographer C. Moore Hardy and on Tuesday 19 February with a discussion by Ron Muncaster on the 90s. 
Tickets cost $35 plus booking fee and can be purchased from the Sydney Mardi Gras website.
The museum is open daily throughout the festival and is a must-see for all Sydneysiders. 

Sydney Mardi Gras Museum
Corner of Oxford and Palmer streets
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

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