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The Art Gallery of NSW's New Sydney Modern Project Expansion Will Open Its Doors This Summer

Come Saturday, December 3, art lovers will be able to wander through AGNSW's $344-million new addition.
By Sarah Ward and Ben Hansen
April 27, 2022
By Sarah Ward and Ben Hansen
April 27, 2022

For five years now, the Sydney Modern Project has been on its way: the multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation project that's set to transform the Art Gallery of NSW, that is. Originally announced in 2017, officially given a green light in 2018 and revealing its first commissioned artworks in March 2022, it'll turn the Sydney institution into a two-building art museum — and almost double its space in the process — with the revamp costing $344 million to bring to fruition.

That's the old news surrounding the Sydney Modern Project. The new news: it'll open its doors on Saturday, December 3 this year. So, Sydneysiders, you now have a summer date with a brand new gallery. And if you reside elsewhere in Australia, you now have an excuse to head to the New South Wales capital to close out 2022.

Here's what's in store: a new standalone building that sprawls across 7830 square metres, as designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architects SANAA (with Australia's Architectus as the executive architect). Set to be light, airy and open to its surroundings, it'll feature a dedicated gallery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at entrance level. Venture downstairs, however, and Sydney Modern Project will also be home to a huge underground art space that'll be used for special commissions and performances, and happens to be repurposed from a decommissioned World War II naval oil tank.

Funded by $244 million from the NSW Government and $100 million raised by private donations, the project also includes a new public art garden, plus a revamp of AGNSW's original historic building. Expect new pools, greenery and public spaces to join the cultural institution's longstanding gallery forecourt — and its entire collection will be reinstalled as well.

Art-wise, nine artists have been enlisted to create works for Sydney Modern Project's opening: Yayoi Kusama, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Karla Dickens, Simryn Gill, Jonathan Jones, Richard Lewer, Lee Mingwei, Lisa Reihana and Francis Upritchard. Spanning huge artworks from First Nations artists through to intricate installations worked into the building's architecture, the creations will be displayed across the site both indoors and outdoors, with some viewable to the public day and night.

Announcing the opening date, Art Gallery of New South Wales Director Dr Michael Brand said that "all eyes will be on Sydney when our new building opens on our magnificent site on Gadigal Country overlooking Sydney Harbour. 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."

"We can't wait to share our dazzling new stage for art. It will be a place of generosity and inclusion where contemporary art is shown in context with historical art — a place where everyone is welcome," Brand added.

A big focus of the new spot: allowing the gallery to "engage our audiences and work with our artists in thrilling new ways," explained AGNSW Deputy Director and Director of Collections Maud Page.

"When we open in December, visitors will experience art right across our campus — indoor and outdoor — from the inaugural installations in our new building to the completely re-installed galleries in our existing building. 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," Page said.

The Sydney Modern Project will open its doors on December 3, 2022 at Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney. For more information about the project, head to the AGNSW website.

Images: Sydney Modern Project render as produced by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA. © Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2021. Top image featuring Taloi Havini Habitat 2017 © Taloi Havini.

Published on April 27, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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