Sydney Modern Project Art Museum Building, SANAA Architects, Contemporary Gallery Design
Sydney Modern Project: New Art Museum
15 October 2020
Sydney Modern Project: Art Gallery
Architects: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA
Sydney Modern Project To Transform The Art Gallery Of New South Wales Into A Global Leader Among Museums
• Australia’s most significant new art museum project will be the first building in the Southern Hemisphere by Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA
• New civic campus bringing together art, architecture and landscape in spectacular new ways with a public art garden and landscape creating seamless indoor and outdoor experiences
• Prominent destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, showcased across the entire campus
• Opening up of one of Sydney’s long-hidden treasures, a unique underground WWII oil tank that will host large-scale contemporary art installations and performances
• ‘World Leadership’ rating for sustainable design, setting new benchmarks for art museums internationally
As it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2021, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) is undertaking a major expansion – the Sydney Modern Project – which will transform one of Australia’s flagship art museums.
With construction underway and scheduled for completion in late 2022, the $344 million (AUD) transformation includes the development of a new standalone building designed by the Japanese Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA. It will be connected to the existing Gallery building via an outdoor public art garden accessible 24/7, creating a civic campus on its magnificent site overlooking Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Modern Project will also give prominence to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, as well as revitalising the Gallery’s much-loved existing building with its signature collection of Australian art.
AGNSW is located in the heart of Sydney’s eastern cultural precinct, adjacent to the Royal Botanic Garden and overlooking Sydney Harbour. It is home to an unrivalled collection of Australian art from the early 19th-century to the present. The Gallery has been at the forefront of collecting, displaying and interpreting historic and contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, and in engaging directly with artists and their communities. In addition, the Gallery holds significant collections of European and Asian art and presents major national and international exhibitions.
A leading centre for Asian art and culture, the Gallery has an outstanding collection from East Asia as well as South and Southeast Asia. The first works to enter the Gallery collection in 1879 were a large group of ceramics and bronzes that had featured at the Sydney International Exhibition that year – a gift from the Government of Japan.
From the time of its founding in 1871, the Gallery has collected and worked with the artists of its time from both Australia and abroad, a commitment that will remain central to the transformed art museum.
The new building designed by SANAA will sit in contrast to the Gallery’s 19th-century neo-classical building, with a public art garden connecting the two. Light, transparent and open to its surroundings, SANAA’s building responds to the site’s topography with a series of pavilions that cascade down towards Woolloomooloo Bay with spectacular views over Sydney Harbour. The new building will almost double AGNSW’s total exhibition space, from 9,000 to 16,000 sqm (97,000 to 172,000 sq. ft) and will feature galleries specifically designed to accommodate art of the 21st century.
The Gallery is setting a new benchmark for cultural institutions as the first public art museum in Australia to achieve the highest environmental standard for design. The Green Building Council of Australia has awarded the Sydney Modern Project a 6-star Green Star design rating. This ‘world leadership’ rating is testament to the Gallery’s commitment to sustainability and SANAA’s innovative design. Sustainability initiatives include water efficiency and rainwater harvesting, solar panels and green roofs.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art will be presented with unprecedented ambition, delivering commissions emerging from longstanding relationships with artists and communities. In the SANAA-designed building, works by Indigenous artists will be the first to be encountered by visitors as they enter, installed in a dedicated 960 sqm (10,333 sq ft gallery). Works from the Gallery’s internationally significant permanent collection will also be displayed as part of the curatorial narrative across the entire campus, celebrating Australia’s enduring cultural heritage and its myriad contemporary expressions.
The new building will incorporate a vast, dramatic, columned underground art space repurposed from a decommissioned WWII naval oil tank that will display large-scale contemporary works. The 2,200 sqm (23,700 sq. ft) gallery with 7-metre-high (23 ft) ceilings will be used for specially commissioned installations and site-specific performances, providing public access to this unique space for the first time.
Other spaces in the new building will include:
• A 1,300 sqm (13,993 sq. ft) major exhibition gallery with 5.5-metre-high (18 ft) ceilings to host national and international shows
• A 1,160 sqm (12,486 sq. ft) column-free contemporary gallery with 5.5-metre-high (18 ft) ceilings and a glazed facade looking out to Woolloomooloo Bay
• Purpose-built learning and participation studios for younger audiences, school programmes and a variety of public programmes, including a dedicated studio for creating multimedia works
• Flexible spaces to support public programmes, including performance and lectures
• Smaller galleries, including a project gallery and a suite of spaces for multimedia works
• Integrated indoor and outdoor spaces, including accessible landscaped rooftop art terraces and courtyards, as well as the art garden and civic plaza.
The Sydney Modern Project is the largest government and philanthropic partnership of its kind to be achieved to date in the arts in Australia. Together with the NSW Government’s $244 million (AUD) in funding, the Gallery has attracted unprecedented support, exceeding its fundraising target of $100 million (AUD) to support construction of the new building.
Dr Michael Brand, director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, said, “SANAA’s sublime design allows us to bring together art, architecture and landscape in spectacular new ways to create a unique art museum experience for everyone to enjoy in our vibrant global city.”
“Sydney provides a unique perspective on the world that we are referencing for both the creation of new spaces and the revitalisation of our existing galleries. As we undertake this transformation, like many museums globally, we are working toward a more inclusive approach to engaging the public and a more global understanding of art.”
Kazuyo Sejima, co-founder of SANAA, said, “It has been wonderful and an honour to design such an important public building in Sydney with Michael Brand and his team. We hope the Sydney Modern Project will be a special place for visitors to experience the shared joy of art and ideas in this unique and beautiful setting. This is our first building in Australia, and we are delighted it is being realised.”
President of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Board of Trustees, David Gonski AC said: “The widespread support for the Gallery’s once in a generation expansion symbolises the importance of the arts to the community. We are deeply grateful to the NSW Government for funding the expansion of the state’s leading art museum and our extraordinary donors who have so generously partnered with us on our next exciting chapter.”
The NSW Government, as part of its COVID-19 response, extended construction hours for significant infrastructure projects so work could continue safely. This has helped ensure construction of the Gallery’s new standalone building remains on schedule despite the pandemic.
The Sydney Modern Project is being delivered by Infrastructure NSW on behalf of the Gallery and the NSW Government. Richard Crookes Constructions is the building contractor. The existing Gallery building remains open throughout construction.
On Gadigal land
The Art Gallery of New South Wales acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which it is located, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.
Art Gallery of New South Wales | Sydney, Australia
Set on a magnificent site in Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of Australia’s flagship art museums and the state’s leading visual arts institution. The Gallery’s mission is to serve 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 of scholarship, art education and the exchange of ideas.
Admission to the Gallery is free, as are the permanent galleries and most exhibitions, public programmes and events. On the eve of its 150th anniversary in 2021, the Gallery remains committed to making art a vital part of everyday life as it undertakes its significant expansion.
Dr Michael Brand (Director)
Michael Brand joined the Art Gallery of New South Wales as director in June 2012. Prior to his appointment, he was director of the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto while it was under construction. From 2005 to 2010, Dr Brand was director of the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, leading both the Getty Center and Getty Villa sites and establishing its new Center for Photography.
Before that he was director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond from 2000 to 2005; A regular contributor to global conversations about the future of art museums, Michael chairs the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors (CAAMD) and serves on the International Advisory Board of the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. His professional affiliations include the Bizot Group of International Art Museum Directors and the American Association of Museum Directors. He is a past member of the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Art Museums and the Governing Board of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
Founded in 1995, SANAA is an architectural and design firm based in Tokyo, headed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. SANAA’s major works include the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan; the Dior Omotesando Building in Tokyo, Japan; the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, USA; Grace Farms in Connecticut, USA; the Rolex Learning Center at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland; the Louvre-Lens in France, and Bocconi University New Urban Campus in Milan, Italy. Current projects include La Samaritaine in Paris and Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa were chosen as the 2010 Laureates of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In 2019 they were the recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Sydney Modern Project: Art Museum images / information received from bm
Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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