The Art Gallery of NSW

Set in the leafy Domain, this huge classical building houses a diverse collection of Australian and international art. It’s free to browse the permanent collections, but specific exhibitions require tickets.

The new extension, designed by SANAA (led by Pritzker winner Kazuyo Sejima), almost doubles the gallery’s exhibition space. It also introduces a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gallery, Yiribana.

History

The gallery has an interesting history, not least because it started without a collection and without a building. In 1871 the Art Society began buying art, mainly second-rate English watercolours and a few large Australian works such as Streeton’s Fire’s On and McCubbin’s On the Wallaby Track.

By 1959 the gallery’s display of the sculptural Pukumani grave posts by Melville Island artists caused a storm of controversy, as it made a strong statement about these artworks as art rather than as ethnographic curios. But the display of this work was a significant moment in the establishment of an art gallery with a global vision.

The new Sydney Modern extension demonstrates how the gallery can continue to expand and evolve while retaining its unique character. Backlit translucent external cladding glows at night and the gallery has a theatrette, conservation studios and new space for Asian art.

Permanent Collection

The art gallery of nsw’s permanent collection covers a broad range of styles from all over the world. It includes works by Indigenous artists, modern Australian and Asian art and a wide selection of photographic, sculptural and installation pieces.

The oldest prehistoric artwork in the gallery dates back to a rock carving dated at least 5,000 years old. The gallery’s first building was erected in 1879 after a long debate over its site in the Domain. Designed by the gallery’s first architect John Horbury Hunt, its raw brick walls earned it the nickname ‘art barn’.

The gallery’s biggest draws include its contemporary Aboriginal gallery, a collection of 20th-century Australian paintings from big names such as Grace Cossington Smith and Sidney Nolan – including some standout canvases of the cityscape and beach life – and the 19th-century canvases of Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts.

Exhibits

The Gallery has an impressive collection of works that draws over a million visitors a year. Spacious, light-filled galleries showcase a mixture of art from the ornate Grand Courts and historic European and Australian collections to contemporary works by leading Australian artists. The Gallery is home to the annual Archibald, Wynne and Dobell prizes.

The Gallery also houses one of the world’s most significant collections of indigenous art and is renowned for its touring exhibitions. Changing exhibitions cover a broad range of subject matter, including landscape, portraiture and Aboriginal art. Located within beautiful parklands overlooking Sydney Harbour, the Gallery is on Gadigal land and is one of Australia’s flagship museums. In 2022 the Gallery underwent a major transformation with the opening of the new Sydney Modern Project.

Restaurant

Located in a stunning neo-classical building looking across the Domain in Sydney, the gallery is a short picturesque walk from central Hyde Park. It houses a vast collection of Australian and international art and has an impressive roster of events and exhibitions. General admission is free, but specific shows require tickets.

A new restaurant in the gallery’s brand-new North building will be headed up by Clayton Wells and positioned to capture views of the internal atrium and Woolloomoloo Bay. The ambitious menu will focus on multicultural Sydney and use native ingredients throughout – think fried prawn sandwiches with za’atar and pita, and a cinnamon morning bun with Daintree chocolate ganache and wattleseed praline.

The Gallery has recently been duped into buying works by the Indian artist Subhash Kapoor. It is alleged that the art had been stolen from Hindu temples.

Shop

Every Wednesday evening the gallery hosts free Art After Hours, with a program of live music, lectures and celebrity talks, drawing workshops and film screenings. Gallery tours are also available, and the public can access the gallery until 10pm. The gallery is also close to public transport.

Located in The Domain on Gadigal Country, the Art Gallery of NSW is Sydney’s most significant public museum. Its huge classical building displays a vast collection of Australian art (including Aboriginal), as well as European and Asian works.

The new Gallery Shop was designed by Akin Atelier in collaboration with Hayden Cox as the principal retail space of the Art Gallery’s new Sydney Modern building. Fluid contours of bio-resin reflect and refract shifting natural light throughout the day, shaping a luminous interior of varying perspectives and contrasting tones.

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