Meet Naala Badu: The Art Gallery of NSW Has Finally Named Its $344-Million Extension That Opened in Late 2022

AGNSW's original building, which boasts a sandstone facade dating back to the 19th century, also has a new moniker: Naala Nura.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 17, 2024

As announced in 2017, officially given a green light in 2018 and then launching a couple of years back, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has been a two-building art museum since late 2022. The first space, the 153-year-old AGNSW's OG structure, boasts a sandstone facade dating back to the 19th century. The second came about as part of the $344-million Sydney Modern Project. But even when the venue's extension opened its doors to the public, it didn't have a name.

Meet Naala Badu, then. AGNSW has finally announced a moniker for the space that's been known as Sydney Modern to art-loving visitors for more than a year. The term is the Aboriginal word for "waters" in the Sydney language, and has been paired with Naala Nura, which means "seeing Country", as the new name for the gallery's first building.

Iwan Baan

Overall, the institution itself is still called the Art Gallery of New South Wales. That hasn't changed. But each part of it now has a distinct title, each reflecting its location and architecture. Naala Badu earned its moniker thanks to its proximity to Sydney Harbour, plus the waters that've long been pivotal to NSW's communities. Naala Nura's counterpart nods to the building's sandstone, as well as Indigenous Country in general.

Now displaying on both buildings, the names were chosen after AGNSW consulted with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council among other key Aboriginal stakeholders and communities, with the gallery's board of trustees, Indigenous Advisory Group and Indigenous staff in support.

"Aboriginal language has a deep and spiritual connection to Country. We hope this can be felt by everyone when the building names Naala Badu and Naala Nura are used by the community and visitors to the Art Gallery of New South Wales," said Indigenous Advisory Group chair Rachel Piercy.

Jenni Carter

"We are greatly honoured that the Art Gallery's two buildings on this significant site in Sydney will bear the Aboriginal names Naala Badu and Naala Nura. They evoke a powerful sense of place — this place of extraordinary physical beauty with its complex, contested histories. We intend to carry these names with the deepest respect," added AGNSW director Michael Brand.

Located on the hill beside Naala Nura, which gives it a view of Woolloomooloo's Finger Wharf, the four-level Naala Badu sprawls across 7830 square metres and is designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architects SANAA (with Australia's Architectus as the executive architect). One of its highlights is the Yiribana Gallery, which moved over from Naala Nura to showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander work.

"As an Indigenous Australian for whom English is my second language, having not had the opportunity to learn my first language, I applaud the gift of living, breathing language for the Art Gallery's two buildings. With the spotlight on the Art Gallery's new initiatives for Aboriginal art and culture, we've created a globally renowned art destination where visitors can experience the best art and culture Australia has to offer," noted Tony Albert, an Art Gallery trustee and also the inaugural chair of AGNSW's Indigenous Advisory Group.

Iwan Baan


Iwan Baan

Find Naala Badu and Naala Nura at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney. For more information, head to the AGNSW website.

Top image: © Iwan Baan.

Published on April 17, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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