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  • Jun 14, 2017

Generous State Funding Revives AGNSW Sydney Modern Project

The Sydney Modern Project will receive AUD 244 million (USD 184.4 million) from the New South Wales state government. Courtesy the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

In a surprise announcement today, Australia’s New South Wales state government has said it will donate a generous AUD 244 million (USD 184.4 million) to partially fund the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s (AGNSW) expansion plans, known as the Sydney Modern Project. The cash, which will be funneled to AGNSW over the course of four years, will be siphoned directly from the AUD 600 million (USD 453.4 million) state culture and arts fund. When completed in 2021, the expansion—which is being designed by Pritzker-Architecture-Prize-winning Japanese architects SANAA and is expected to cost AUD 450 million (USD 340 million)—will see the current Gallery’s exhibition space doubled.

The announcement today will come as a relief to those at AGNSW, including its director Michael Brand, who has faced criticism for lackluster funding over the past four years. In 2013, the NSW Government committed AUD 10.8 million (USD 8 million) to advance plans. This was topped up with another AUD 4 million (USD 3 million) in June 2015, the month after the gallery announced that SANAA had been chosen as the preferred architects. Since then, no further funds had been committed from either private sources or the public purse—until today.

The project has raised debate among those in the art world since its announcement four years ago, with some questioning the motives behind such an ambitious expansion, and accusing the instigators of being cash-hungry and land-grabbers. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has been the project’s most high-profile critic, and publicly lampooned it as an “entertainment complex masquerading as art,” in a column in the Sydney Morning Herald.

When speaking to AAP today, Brand commented: “There will be eight different display galleries and what is now most exciting is that there will be a 1,000-square-meter entrance level gallery in the new building, which will be a display space for indigenous art. This new space will be remarkable.” The gallery will launch a major fundraising program later this year to secure the remaining funds.

Michael Young is contributing editor at ArtAsiaPacific.

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