Media Release – The City of Newcastle
28 January 2022
Newcastle Art Gallery expansion set to start Monday
Newcastle Art Gallery will hold a special Sunday evening viewing to the general public before closing its doors and reopening in two years’ time to allow its long-awaited $40 million expansion to occur.
The City has received the certainty needed to progress with the expansion following a $10 million grant from the Commonwealth and NSW Governments announced in Newcastle this morning by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it was the beginning of an exciting new era for Newcastle Art Gallery, which will celebrate its final weekend of operation with extended hours and special activations on Sunday before closing doors for the expansion’s early works.
“After more than 16 years of effort to make the expansion a reality, the commitment of $10 million from the Commonwealth and NSW Governments allows us to start the project immediately,” Cr Nelmes said.
“This is both a regionally and nationally significant project and I’d like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister and NSW Deputy Premier for their support of the arts and Newcastle Art Gallery.
“This funding will add to the $16.5 million already committed by the City of Newcastle and $10 million bequeathed by the late Val Ryan. City of Newcastle will partner with the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation and the community to raise the remaining several million dollars as the expansion works commence.
“City of Newcastle will now issue a national tender to decant the Newcastle Art Gallery and securely store its 7,000 works, which are collectively valued at more than $115 million.
“By doubling the size of the Gallery, significantly increasing the exhibition space and delivering a suite of modern facilities, this project will deliver an expanded and upgraded gallery of international standing that will offer a valuable cultural tourism opportunity for Newcastle and the Hunter.
“This weekend is your last opportunity to visit the Gallery to celebrate the beginning of an exciting new era, before we close the doors to the public and get to work delivering our shared vision for one of the city’s cultural landmarks.”
The expansion project includes an additional 1,600 square meters of exhibition space with dedicated areas for the Gallery’s collection on the lower level, while the upper level will cater for a variety of travelling exhibitions, including international shows.
The project will deliver a new café and retail shop, multi-purpose and educational program space, a secure international standard loading dock, and will extend the building’s footprint east along Darby Street and Queen Street.
Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton OAM said the expanded Gallery would be a major drawcard for the city.
“The long-awaited expansion of the Gallery, which our Foundation, Society and the community have worked tirelessly towards, will offer the ability to share more of our collection, displaying works of art of local, national and international importance for visitors to view and enjoy,” Ms Morton said.
“This project is about more than just increasing the exhibition space; it’s about reimagining the Art Gallery to redefine what we offer as a destination and launch a new era of cultural tourism that will consolidate the Hunter’s reputation as an active and vibrant centre for the arts in NSW.”
City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath said work to make the project a funded reality began in earnest in mid-2017, after many years of false starts.
“Today’s $10 million grant from the Federal and NSW Governments is the result of an incredible amount of hard work and advocacy by so many people from across the region,” Mr Bath said.
“The expanded Art Gallery will not only display some of Australia’s most famous pieces of art but will also attract international exhibitions; giving tourists a compelling reason to include Newcastle and the Hunter in their holiday itinerary.”
City of Newcastle will now call for tenders for an experienced Fine Art Handler to help relocate the collection into secure, temperature-controlled storage to ensure the protection and preservation of the valuable works during the expansion project.
Moving the collection will be completed in parallel with external early works, including the relocation of telecommunication assets from the site and mine void remediation, which will ensure the Gallery is vacant and ready for the main construction work to begin mid-year. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2024.
The collection will still be available online and will be represented across digital screen sites throughout the city during the expansion project, while outreach programs, special activations and partnerships will be developed to allow the community to continue to engage with the Gallery.
Newcastle Art Gallery will have extended opening hours from 10am to 8pm this Sunday, 30 January, with music, food and activations from 12pm and a pop-up bar on-site from 3pm.
Newcastle Art Gallery was Australia’s first purpose-built regional art gallery, opened by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.
The Gallery is home to the most valuable collection in regional Australia, with more than 7,000 works valued at $115 million. Significant and diverse, it provides a time capsule of Australian art dating back to the earliest days of Newcastle more than 200 years ago when it became Australia’s second city to be settled.
The collection includes works by Arthur Boyd, William Dobell, Margaret Olley, John Olsen, Patricia Piccinini, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott and Brett Whitely.
At present, only 1% of Newcastle Art Gallery’s works can be displayed in any year due to a lack of space.
The expansion is expected to create 170 jobs, including 152 in construction and 18 ongoing once it is complete.
It is also expected to inject more than $1 million into annual regional revenue by attracting more than 14,000 additional local visitors and tourists each year.
Early construction works have been approved and will commence on Monday. The City will shortly tender for a Fine Art Handler to undertake the decant the collection, and separately tender for the major construction works.
Community contributions to the Art Gallery expansion are welcomed and are tax deductible.