The transformation of the Art Gallery of New South Wales – the Sydney Modern Project – will open to the public on Saturday 3 December 2022.

Located on a magnificent site overlooking Sydney Harbour, the Art Gallery is the leading art museum in Sydney and one of Australia’s pre-eminent cultural institutions.

The AU$344 million Sydney Modern Project is the most significant cultural development in the city since the opening of the Sydney Opera House nearly half a century ago.  The transformation will create a new art museum campus with two buildings connected by a public art garden.

A key aspect of the expansion will be exceptional displays of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, which will be showcased both in a dedicated gallery, the first to be encountered by visitors on entrance level of the new building, as well as across the entire expanded campus. 

Spectacular Architectural Features

The Sydney Modern Project almost doubles exhibition space and includes a spectacular new building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architects SANAA, with Australian practice Architectus as executive architect. Other features of the Sydney Modern Project include the revitalisation of its historic building by Australian architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, including a complete re-installation of the collection; extensive outdoor art experiences; and a series of major art commissions across the campus by leading international and local artists.

Light, transparent and open to its surroundings, SANAA’s building responds to the site’s topography with a series of art pavilions that cascade down toward the harbour. The new building expands the formal exhibition space from 9,000 to 16,000 sqm, and will feature galleries specifically designed to accommodate art of the 21st century as well as special installations in circulation spaces. It incorporates a vast, columned underground art space, repurposed from a decommissioned World War II naval oil tank, creating a 2,200 sqm gallery with 7-metre-high ceilings for special commissions and performances. 

Acclaimed landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson, with Seattle firm Gustafson Guthrie Nicol, and Australian landscape architects McGregor Coxall are leading the design of landscape and civic spaces of the expanded campus. 

Major Art Commissions Unveiled

Marking the opening of the Sydney Modern Project, nine major commissions have been awarded to leading artists: 

·       Waradgerie artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australia) has created a collection of narrbong-galang (many bags) on an epic scale. They will fill the wall of the 20-metre-long loggia of the Yiribana Gallery showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

·       Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens’s (Australia) panels depicting hooded figures will be installed on the iconic sandstone facade of the Art Gallery’s historic building, as an exploration of the continuing legacy of colonialism. 

·       Simryn Gill (Australia/Malaysia) has conceived a lyrical work in the form of a life-sized ghostly rubbing of an historically significant palm tree removed from the Sydney Modern Project site. 

·       Wiradyuri and Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones (Australia) has created an artwork at the heart of the expanded campus that links the new and existing Art Gallery buildings and responds to the site’s history on Gadigal land. Jones’s practice seeks to celebrate Indigenous knowledges and offer unique perspectives of Country while involving community within the work.

·       Yayoi Kusama (Japan) has created an exuberant floral sculpture, prominently positioned on the new building’s terrace overlooking Sydney Harbor. Inspired by the endemic plants of south-eastern Australia, the sculpture will be visible over three floors, inside and out.

·       Lee Mingwei (France/USA) has collaborated with SANAA to incorporate his work, an intimate and contemplative space for visitors’ personal journeys, into the building’s external rammed earth wall. 

·       Richard Lewer (Australia) has been commissioned to make a multi-panel painting that captures the stories and portraits of people involved in the design and construction of the Sydney Modern Project.

·       Maori artist Lisa Reihana (New Zealand) is producing a monumental moving image work that overlooks the central atrium of the new building. Set between Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, this sci-fi tale forges a new story of trans-Tasman connection.

·       Francis Upritchard (UK/Italy/New Zealand) has created a troupe of fantastical bronze figures for the new building’s Welcome Plaza. Inspired by mythology and the surrounding Moreton Bay fig trees, the playful sculptures will entice visitors of all ages.

World-class Collections

The Art Gallery’s collection of Australian art is among the finest and broadest to be found anywhere. From the time of its founding, the Art Gallery has collected and worked with the artists of its time from Australia and around the world. 

The Art Gallery maintains the New South Wales state art collection of more than 36,000 objects, including more than 2,000 historic and contemporary works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, acquired over the past 74 years. It has been at the forefront of collecting, displaying and interpreting historic and contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island art, and in engaging directly with artists and their communities. 

The Art Gallery also holds significant collections of Asian and European art and presents major national and international exhibitions.

Celebratory Quotes

Dr. Michael Brand, Director, Art Gallery of New South Wales, said: “All eyes will be on Sydney when our new building opens on our magnificent site on Gadigal Country overlooking Sydney Harbor. Our new art museum campus brings together art, architecture and landscape in spectacular new ways, providing visitors with art and cultural experiences only possible here. This is truly the world seen from Sydney.”

Maud Page, Deputy Director and Director of Collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, said: “The Sydney Modern Project allows us to engage our audiences and work with our artists in thrilling new ways. When we open in December every space across our expanded art museum campus will have been reimagined and re-installed. Our collection will be accentuated by bold and compelling new art commissions that contribute to important global conversations of our time from our place here in the Asia Pacific.”

Together with the NSW State Government’s AU$244 million in funding, the Art Gallery has raised more than AU$100 million from private donors to support this once-in-a-generation cultural investment.

Delivery of the Sydney Modern Project remains on track, with construction of the new building by Richard Crookes Constructions close to completion.

www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au | #ArtGalleryNSW 


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