Regional galleries think big

The City of Greater Bendigo has put in a pitch for funding for the redevelopment of Bendigo Art Gallery in the state budget, outlining its vision to turn the facility into a leading regional arts institution.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas will hand down the 2022-23 state budget on Tuesday.

Founded in 1887 and owned and operated by the City of Bendigo, Bendigo Art Gallery is one of the largest regional galleries in Australia, and has established a reputation for putting on blockbuster exhibitions, including the current Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibition.

The expansion of the Bendigo Art Gallery will build on previous successful exhibitions, including the Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibition

Past exhibitions have included drawings by Brett Whiteley; Balanciaga and Mary Quant fashion retrospectives; the Tudor to Windsor Royal Portraits and Frida Kahlo: her photos.

Council says The $28 million redevelopment project requires up to $21 million from other levels of government and $1.5 million in philanthropic donations.

It has already secured $2.5 million from the Gallery board and is dedicating $3 million from its own budget.

A redevelopment of the entire site would include a learning centre for students, second-level blockbuster exhibition space and Traditional Owner Place of Keeping for the Dja Dja Wurrung, Mayor Andrea Metcalf says.

There will also be expanded access to free and collection-based exhibitions and more commercial opportunities, including a pop-up blockbuster exhibition shop and redeveloped restaurant, as well as expanded public spaces.

Cr Metcalf says now is the right time to transform the building.  

“Bendigo Art Gallery is renowned for its blockbuster exhibitions and is a major tourism and economic driver in our region,” she said in a statement.

“It is the right time to truly transform the building and cement the Gallery as a leading arts institution in regional Australia.”

Newcastle works on mine

Bendigo isn’t the only regional gallery with lofty plans. Newcastle, work is set to commence beneath the Newcastle Art Gallery to prepare for its $40 million expansion.

The expansion project includes an additional 1,600 square metres of exhibition space with dedicated areas for the gallery’s collection on the lower level, with the upper level showcasing travelling exhibitions.

The project, expected to be completed by mid-2024, will also deliver a new café and retail shop, multi-purpose and educational program space and a secure international standard loading dock.

Mayor Nuatali Nelmes

The project has been supported by a $10 million grant from the federal and NSW governments, a $10 million bequest from Valerie Ryan and $500,000 in funding from the Margaret Olley Art Trust through the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation.  

As the gallery sits above the Dudley Coal Seam and Borehole Coal Seam, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said mine remediation is a crucial part of early work to prepare the site ahead of the main construction. 

The remediation, scheduled to commence in June, will require approximately 15,000 cubic metres of grout deployed into the seams through over 100 individual bores, which will be drilled throughout the site. 

“An interesting and little-known fact about Newcastle Art Gallery is that it sits atop abandoned mine workings, so it’s important that we ensure the site is safe for construction of the expanded gallery to commence later this year,” Cr Nelmes said. 

With the gallery’s collection currently being transferred, a temporary photography studio has been set up onsite for the digitisation and condition reporting of artwork prior to them being placed into offsite storage. 

During the construction period, the community can access the collection online and outreach programs will commence within local schools from May.

New AGNSW building set to open

Meanwhile, The Art Gallery of NSW is getting a new building as part of its expansion and will officially open to the public on December 3.

It has been designed by architects SANAA and will be constructed by Richard Crookes Constructions.

The Art Gallery of NSW will have new outdoor spaces, including a public art garden (Image supplied by NSW Government)

Labelled a “once in a generation project” by Premier Dominic Perrottet, the $344 million expansion will almost double the space for art and exhibitions from around the world.

“It will allow many artworks currently in storage to be displayed, and also provides a prominent new destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art,” Mr Perrottet said in a statement.

“This is a major investment in art, artists and culture, and sends a strong signal of confidence for a vibrant and exciting future.”

Minister for Infrastructure Rob Stokes said older areas of the art gallery will be updated to complement the expansion and the gallery’s original building is also being revitalised.

“New outdoor spaces are being created, including a public art garden set in one of the world’s most beautiful cultural precincts, adjacent to the Royal Botanic Garden,” he said in a statement.

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