Sydney Modern expansion of the Art Gallery of New South Wales gets green light

AGNSW - View from WoolloomoolooNSW Arts Minister Don Harwin has announced the $344 million Sydney Modern expansion of the Art Gallery of New South Wales has received planning approval.

Construction of the new building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects, SANAA, will commence in early 2019 resulting in a spectacular near doubling of the exhibition space of the Gallery. Due for completion in time for the Gallery’s 150th anniversary in 2021, Minister Harwin says a comprehensive consultation process has cleared the way for construction.

“This approval paves the way for the Gallery to become one of the world’s great art museums increasing visitation to an expected two million people a year,” said Minister Harwin. “Community feedback has played a vital role in finalising this remarkable project, and I congratulate everyone involved in the community consultation process that got us to where we are today – a green light for the Sydney Modern Project.”

The new building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects, SANAA, will close to double current exhibition space. This will enable the Gallery to show more of its outstanding art collection and host more of the best exhibitions from around the world, increasing visitation to an expected two million people a year.

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said the project’s planning approval was a green light for art, artists and audiences. “The Art Gallery of NSW is delighted that its expansion plans have been approved to create an art museum experience that brings together art, architecture and landscape in one of the most beautiful cultural precincts in the world,” said Dr Brand.

“Our transformed institution will represent Sydney’s bold spirit as a leading 21st-century art museum with a deep commitment to both Australian and international art. SANAA’s sublime building will deliver us much-needed new spaces to show more art to more people – a rightly ambitious goal for our great global city.”

Art Gallery of NSW president of the Board of Trustees, David Gonski AC, said the widespread support for the Gallery’s compelling vision symbolises the importance of the arts to the community.

“This new public asset will deliver enormous cultural and economic benefits to Sydney, NSW and Australia for generations to come,” said Mr Gonski. “I applaud the NSW Government for funding the expansion of the state’s leading art museum, and our generous donors for their extraordinary endorsement of the Gallery’s transformation.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the Gallery’s past and present trustees, our director Michael Brand and his predecessor Edmund Capon, and all the staff over many years who have worked so hard to bring the much-needed expansion to life,” Mr Gonski added.

The $344 million Sydney Modern Project is the largest public-private partnerships of its kind in the Australian arts. The NSW Government has funded $244 million, and the Gallery has attracted unprecedented philanthropic support. The Capital Campaign, under the chairmanship of Gallery trustee Mark Nelson, is on the cusp of reaching its $100 million target.

The expanded Gallery will include a prominent destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art; a large gallery for major exhibitions; a spectacular contemporary art space repurposed from a decommissioned WWII oil tank; and spaces for family, learning and educational programming to double student and teacher visits to 200,000 annually. A public Art Garden will link the new and existing buildings, for all visitors to the Gallery, the Domain and adjacent Royal Botanic Garden to enjoy.

The Gallery is the first public art museum in the nation to achieve the highest environmental standard for design with a Green Building Council of Australia 6-star Green Star design rating, exceeding its original 5-star goal.

“Achieving a 6-star Green Star design rating is testament to the high-quality design of the Gallery’s expansion and our commitment to sustainability,” said Dr Brand. “We are helping set a new international standard for art museums.”

Since 2015, the Gallery has worked with SANAA to evolve the design to maximise open space across the site, integrating the building with the landscape and enhancing sustainability initiatives, including rainwater harvesting, extensive solar panels and a seawater heat exchange system for air-conditioning.

The building’s final design has been unveiled as part of the SSDA approval. Construction is expected to commence in early 2019 for completion in 2021. The Gallery, which provides free admission, will remain open during this time. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Image of the Sydney Modern Project as produced by Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA © Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2018