An exciting new era in the cultural life of Australia begins on Saturday 3 December 2022, as the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new building opens.
The new standalone building, designed by SANAA, is the centrepiece of our expansion, the most significant cultural development to open in Sydney in nearly half a century. The completion of the project creates a new art museum campus comprising two buildings connected by a public art garden on Gadigal Country overlooking Sydney Harbour.
Our vision has been to transform the Art Gallery into an art museum campus with seamless connections between art, architecture and landscape; a strong sense of place and an innovative display of art. From our dazzling new stage, we now offer even more art experiences worthy of our location and our history.
Located in one of the world’s most beautiful cultural precincts, the new building has multiple sightlines to its parkland and harbour surroundings. Architectural features include three limestone-clad art pavilions that gently step down towards the harbour; 250 metres of rammed earth wall over two levels made with material sourced from across NSW; and 3400 square metres of accessible roof ‘art terraces’ and courtyards. New art spaces include a column-free gallery, a gallery for time-based art, and adaptive re-use of a decommissioned Second World War naval fuel bunker, now known as the Tank, a 2200-square-metre space that is one of Australia’s most unique art destinations.
The expansion almost doubles exhibition space for the display and enjoyment of art. It also creates a prominent new destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, with a larger dedicated space to showcase the Art Gallery’s internationally renowned collection. Yiribana, meaning ’this way’ in the Sydney language, is the first gallery visitors encounter when they enter the new building.
An Indigenous lens is held up across our displays as they powerfully herald new art histories to be written from here. Our curatorial narratives are amplified through networks connecting the urgent social issues that motivate artists in the 21st century, including gender, race, the value of labour, and a strong concern for the precariousness of the natural world.
The opening displays include the work of over 900 artists from around the world. There are more works by women artists than men displayed in the new building, and greater gender parity has been achieved in displays in the original building. The expansion includes the largest commissioning program in the Art Gallery’s 151-year history, featuring nine major new site-specific works by Australian and international artists: Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Karla Dickens, Simryn Gill, Jonathan Jones (scheduled for completion in mid 2023), Yayoi Kusama, Lee Mingwei, Richard Lewer, Lisa Reihana and Francis Upritchard. Exhibitions in the new building include Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter, Making Worlds, Outlaw and Adrián Villar Rojas: The End of Imagination.
Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA with Architectus as executive architects, the new building has been delivered by Infrastructure NSW on behalf of the government and the Art Gallery and built by Richard Crookes Constructions.
It is the first public art museum in Australia to achieve a 6-star Green Star design rating. Renewal energy powers 100% of its energy needs, with more than 10% of energy needs generated by solar panels on the Entrance Pavilion roof. Rainwater is captured and harvested for re-use in irrigation and cooling towers. More than 8000 square metres of green roof and landscaped areas are planted with Australian native species.
Australian landscape architects McGregor Coxall and landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson with Seattle firm Gustafson Guthrie Nicol (GGN) led the design of landscape and civic spaces for the campus. Linking the two buildings, the new public Art Garden includes a major art commission by Wiradyuri and Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, bíal gwiyúŋo (the fire is not yet lighted), scheduled to open mid-2023.
Other landscape features include Joseph Beuys’ newly re-instated environmental artwork 7000 oaks – city forestation instead of city administration 1982–87 on Art Gallery Road, between the two buildings, and an enhanced landscape with over 50,000 plants and 70% more trees than existed on the site before construction. Kathryn Gustafson redesigned the forecourt of the original building with two black granite reflecting pools, new landscaping, seating and shade to create an expanded civic area.
The Art Gallery’s original building has been revitalised by Australian architectural firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) with a full reinstallation of collection displays, an upgraded Members Lounge, and the addition of Australia’s first children’s art library situated alongside the new Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library and the National Art Archive.