Is "Sydney Modern" the New Art Gallery of New South Wales?

Is "Sydney Modern" the New Art Gallery of New South Wales?
Michael Brand, Steve Lowy, and architect Richard Johnson
(Nicholas Forrest)

Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) today unveiled a strategic vision and masterplan, codenamed “Sydney Modern,” aimed at transforming the Gallery into an art museum for the 21st century. The main component of the proposal is a major expansion of the Gallery estimated to cost around $400 million that would ideally be completed by 2021, the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1871.

According to the president of the Board of Trustees, Mr Steven Lowy AM , “While the Gallery punches well above its weight we have developed this vision to ensure that it remains relevant and we must now begin a process of working with all stakeholders to agree on the best way to help us make that exciting vision a reality.”

Currently only half the size of other major Australian public galleries, the Art Gallery of New South Wales lags behind its peers in Australia, the region, and around the world. The expansion would bring the AGNSW in line with galleries in Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane and would encourage an increase visitation from 1.3 million per annum to an estimated 2 million by 2021.

The physical transformation would complement the existing Gallery by doubling its size and expanding northwards towards the harbour to make use of underutilised land, an existing land bridge and space currently occupied by disused storage tanks. As well as expanding the Gallery, the masterplan also envisions better connections between the Gallery and the city via pedestrian access, train, and a new ferry wharf at Woolloomooloo.

AGNSW director, Dr Michael Brand, said that despite the success of the Gallery in building one of Australia’s finest collections of Australian and international art, both historical and contemporary, the existing building alone was not able to meet current demand, let alone properly serve its audience into the 21st century.

“From its base in Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is dedicated to serving the widest possible audience as a centre of excellence for the collection, preservation, documentation, interpretation and display of Australian and international art, and a forum for scholarship, art education and the exchange of ideas,” said Dr Brand.

The Gallery will now begin a process of consultation with stakeholders to advance the proposal, including the NSW government, the Royal Botanic Gardens, transport authorities, the artist community and friends and supporters of the Gallery. Following the acquisition of the required funds, a national and international architectural competition will be launched to produce an internationally significant design for the new building.