Inside the Collection

Meet the curator- Charles Pickett

Photo portrait of MAAS Curator, Dr. Charles Pickett
Photography © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved.

If you are a regular reader of ‘Object of the Week’, you would know that Charles is one of our best contributors. I thought it was about time we ‘met’ Charles in one of our inimitable 6×6 style interviews!

Curator’s name: Charles Pickett (it’s actually Dr Charles, but he is modest! Charles holds a PhD in History from the University of Sydney).

What he’s known for: Charles is Curator of Design and the Built Environment. He has published widely on the topics of apartment living, Australian cities, Sydney suburbia, pub design and culture and gambling, among many others.

Describe your typical working day…
At the moment it involves rushing to get the kids to school and then arriving at work for a rest! Actually, not quite. A typical working day for me, now, is slogging away on a new book.

What major projects are you currently working on?
The book. It’s called Designer Suburbs and I am co-writing it with Judith O’Callaghan of the University of New South Wales. I’m also working on an architecture exhibition which is in the pipeline.

What was the last book you read?
A huge volume on Le Corbusier. These days, however, I rarely get time to read books outside of work, although I like to look at online magazines and newspapers like Slate, the New Yorker and the Guardian.

Last film you watched?
I used to be a real film buff, but my wife and kids have kind of squashed that! I’ve been getting through the whole Mad Men series and I also recently saw Never let me go.

Last piece of writing you published?
My masterpiece blog post on ‘Object of the Week’ – Osama’s lair.

Last exhibition you curated?
I developed a section on design in The 80s Are Back exhibition. I also developed a section for Sydney’s Pubs, an exhibition at the Justice and Police Museum (part of the Historic Houses Trust) a couple of years back. I’ve curated or co-curated about 25 exhibitions in my time.

Last person you had a conversation with?
I took my son’s broken violin bow into a music shop this morning and the shop owner and I had a chat about how nothing is repaired anymore, given it’s much easier to buy a replacement!

Last shop you visited?
The music shop – Logan’s in Burwood. Before that I went to Burwood Cycleworld to buy a new tube. I’ve been busy this morning!

Last meal you ate?
Breakfast – a long black and two pieces of toast.

Last time you laughed uncontrollably?
I don’t know if I do a lot of uncontrollable laughing. Maybe on Sunday morning while watching the Champions League Final.

From the top…
[Charles was asked to select which of the following pairs of words best describes him]

Introverted or extroverted? Introverted
Meateater or vegetarian? Both
Country or classical? I like opera, I don’t care much for classical. Never liked country!
Swim or cycle? Cycle [Charles is a real bicycle buff]
Tooheys or VB? I like Tooheys Old
Borneo or Berlin? Berlin
Camping or cruising? Neither – both are hell on earth!
Crossword or sudoku? Neither
Early bird or night owl? Night owl
Manual or auto? Auto
T-shirt or tie? I like a nice shirt
ABBA or Village People? Village People
Basil Fawlty or Benny Hill? Basil Fawlty was funny a century ago! Never really watched Benny Hill.
Flip flops or sneakers? I like Dunlop Volleys
Cocopops or Cornflakes? Neither

Turn out your pockets…
In Charles’s jacket and trouser pockets, we found the following items: his Powerhouse Museum swipe card, a business card obtained at a recent conference he attended at Sydney Olympic Park, some dirty tissues (also leftover from the conference…which, for the record, was 2 days ago!), a wallet and set of keys.

To read Charles’s blog posts on ‘Object of the Week’, click here. And, if you liked this interview, please feel free to put forward some suggestions of other interviewees you’d like to see in the hot seat!

6 responses to “Meet the curator- Charles Pickett

  • As a recent convert to the story of 20th century Australian architecture and student in Heritage Conservation, ‘Fibro Frontier’, ‘Homes in the Sky’, and ‘Designer Suburbs’ have all been tremendously helpful. Cheers.

  • Dear Dr, Pickett,

    Re: IMAGINE A CITY exhibition

    congratulations on a brilliant exhibition including the catalogue and videoes. I was a bonded architecturl trainee (960-) under the scheme set up by the Public Service Board at the instigation of Harry Rembert to improve the quality of architectural design. I worked for a time on the State Office Building drawings in 1962 with Ken Woolley dropping in at irregular intervals to answer the architects who struggled to translate the Seagram Building into a real building.

    There is a mistake of attribution for the Premier’s Office fountain which was designed by Les Reedman not by Woolley. The beautiful drawing is also by Reedman. Woolley’s contribution was to suggest to Les something resembling an orange peel. Les did the rest!

    Yours sincerely,

    Philip Drew

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