MEDIA RELEASE – 5 October 2010

 11 new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander galleries, new entrance and foyer, shop and multi-purpose function hall, the Gandel Hall, now open

Last week’s opening of the major extension Stage 1 to the National Gallery of Australia marks a new era in the history of the Gallery?home to the national art collection. The new wing includes a striking new entrance and foyer, Gallery Shop, multi-purpose function hall, the Gandel Hall, street café and most importantly 11 new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander galleries.

Ron Radford AM, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, said, “This is the most significant development to the National Gallery of Australia since it opened in 1982. This is the first increase in our permanent collection space since the Gallery opened, and these are the first galleries specifically designed for the display of different kinds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

“The National Gallery of Australia owns the largest collection of Australian Indigenous art in the world, over 7500 works of art, and now many of these will be displayed in 11 dedicated galleries and spaces.

“The new Stage 1 development also provides the Gallery with a more visible and accessible street-level entrance and grand foyer, a new shop featuring exclusive product and the magnificent Gandel Hall for openings, functions and public program activities. These are the facilities now expected of a well attended modern museum.

“We would like to acknowledge the Federal Government for supporting this major redevelopment of the National Gallery of Australia. It is for all Australians. The generosity and support of visionary benefactors of Stage 1, Pauline Gandel and John Gandel AO and Gordon Darling AC, CMG, and Marilyn Darling AC, has been honoured through the naming in perpetuity of the Gandel Hall and the Gordon and Marilyn Darling Gallery for the Hermannsburg School.”

The 11 new galleries will showcase over 600 works, some never shown before or not shown in a long time and there are many new acquisitions. Each gallery is specifically designed for a different geographic region or aspect of Indigenous art and, where possible, paintings and sculptures are illuminated by natural daylight, similar to the light in which the works were created.

“It is a real honour to be the custodian of this collection that celebrates the best of Indigenous art. This art, which has been created for over 40 000 years, continues to evolve and change, to surprise and stimulate,” said Franchesca Cubillo, Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

“These galleries show the breadth and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Visitors will see the masters of Australian Indigenous art, including Rover Thomas, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Emily Kam Kngwarray and Albert Namatjira, as well as very early and new and emerging artists. The collection spans generations, from the 19th century to works created this year.”

The galleries cover key art regions in Australia, including the Torres Strait Islands, from remote, regional and urban areas. Galleries include dedicated spaces for: The Aboriginal Memorial 1987–88, one of the most important works in the national art collection; 19th-century objects; early Western Desert paintings; desert paintings after 1975; paintings from the Kimberley; bark paintings and sculpture before 1980; watercolours from the Hermannsburg School; textiles; prints and drawings; works from north Queensland and the Top End after 1980; art from the Torres Strait Islands; and works by artists working in urban areas.

Also on display in the new wing are key sculptures and works from other areas of the national art collection, including Habakuk 1934/1970 by Max Ernst, Plenty 1986 by Rosalie Gascoigne, and Terra incognita 2005 by Imants Tillers.

In addition, the Stage 1 development features in the new Australian Garden the monumental skyspace sculpture Within without 2010 by American artist James Turrell. This work, the largest of its kind, provides an immersive experience using light, perception and space.

There are four new sculptures; three of which were commissioned specially for the Stage 1 development. The Gallery commissioned Melbourne-based artist Mari Funaki to create a sculpture, Twilight that will be sited near the new front entrance doors. Urban Art Projects were commissioned to create two large sculptural works, a 2.7-metre spherical sculpture by renowned senior Indigenous artist Thanakupi and a 12-metre suspended piece interpreted from a Maningrida fish-trap artefact. The fourth work, the Angel of the North (Life-size maquette) by renowned British sculptor Antony Gormley, a generous gift from James and Jacqui Erskine, has just been installed in the Sculpture Garden on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

MEDIA BACKGROUNDER – Stage One building

  • Stage One features a new entrance and foyer, Gallery shop, a new function and event space, street café (opening in mid October) and 11 new Indigenous art galleries showcasing works from the world‘s largest collection of Australian Indigenous art.
  • The National Gallery of Australia‘s Stage One ?New Look‘ was officially opened on Thursday 30 September by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.
  • The architects for the Stage One development are PTW Architects and the design leader is Andrew Anderson.
  • Construction of Stage One commenced in 2007 and completed in 2010.
  •  The original building was opened in 1982 by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. This is the largest redevelopment since then.
  • The original building completed in 1982 was designed to display 1,000 works from the national collection. The additional display space completed in September 2010 will allow the Gallery to display over 2,000 works permanently.
  • The total space of the new building is 9,727m². The new display space is 2424m² and will provide approximately 40% additional display space.
  • Materials used in the new building have been sourced from around Australia and include dark grey South Australian Mintaro slate for the flooring of the Aboriginal Memorial Gallery and Foyer, Queensland red ironbark and South Australian Sawn Austral black granite for the flooring of the Gandel Hall, Cairns Chillagoe green marble for the walls of the toilets and parents room, and Cairns Chillagoe white marble for the Foyer wall.
  • In November 2009, as part of the Stage One vision, the National Gallery completed new dedicated gallery spaces including a specifically designed Sidney Nolan gallery along with dedicated decorative arts, Polynesian and Melanesian galleries.
  • The new galleries were designed with a particular focus on energy efficiency and incorporate extensive energy saving systems. Daylight is used to efficiently offset the use of artificial lighting in many spaces.
  • The new landscape works and car park have been designed to harvest surface water for reuse in the irrigation and water elements.Indigenous Galleries and art on display
  • The National Gallery‘s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art collection comprises over 7,500 works of art. They reflect the richness and diversity of artistic practice across the country.
  • The new galleries cover key art regions in Australia, including the Torres Strait Islands, from remote, regional and urban areas, and will display over 600 works.
  • Galleries include dedicated spaces for: The Aboriginal Memorial 1987–88; 19th-century objects; early Western Desert paintings; desert paintings after 1975; paintings from the Kimberley; bark paintings and sculpture before 1980; watercolours from the Hermannsburg School; textiles; prints and drawings; works from north Queensland and the Top End after 1980; art from the Torres Strait Islands; and works by artists working in urban areas.
  • 8 of the 11 galleries are illuminated overhead by natural daylight, similar to the light in which these works were created.
  • The National Gallery‘s first major purchase of Aboriginal art was made in 1972 and consisted of a series of eight bark paintings by Thomas Nanjiwarra and Bill Namiayangwa from Groote Eylandt. These works will be on display in the new galleries.
  • The most recently acquired work included in the new wing is by Daniel Walbidi which was purchased by the National Gallery in June 2010.
  • The new galleries will feature the masters of Australian Indigenous art, including Rover Thomas, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Emily Kam Kngwarray, Michael Riley and Albert Namatjira.
  • Works by contemporary or new and emerging artists such as Christian Bumbarra Thompson, Jeremiah Bonson and Vicki West will also be showcased.
  • 30 watercolours by Albert Namatjira have been gifted to the National Gallery by Gordon Darling AC, CMG and Marilyn Darling AC in 2008 and 2009. These will be on display in the Gordon and Marilyn Darling for the Hermannsburg School, a more intimate gallery with subdued motion-sensor lighting designed to preserve these delicate works.
  • The new wing will also feature two large scale works which were specially commissioned for the Stage One redevelopment: a 12.5 m fishtrap based on an existing fishtrap in the national collection from Maningrida in Central Arnhem Land created circa 1950; and a 2.5 m² aluminium sphere based on an existing work in the Gallery‘s collection by Queensland artist Thanakupi.Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Fellowship
  • The National Gallery of Australia launched a 5-year ground breaking initiative earlier this year to boost the number of Indigenous Australians in professional roles in the visual arts. The first fellows will be announced in the coming weeks.
  • The program will provide a clear pathway for training and professional development of Indigenous Australians in the visual arts. The fellows will be able to work on projects connected to the new indigenous galleries.

Within Without Skyspace – This monumental sculpture by American Artist James Turrell is the largest skyspace in the southern hemisphere and the only work of its kind in Australia. The partly subterranean installation creates an immersive viewing experience that uses space, shape and light to affect the perception of the sky. Within without is located in the new landscaped Australian Garden.Gandel Hall

Gandel Hall, named after Pauline Gandel and John Gandel AO, is a dedicated function space seating up to 350 guests for dinner or up to 1,000 for stand-up functions.

Opening out onto the Australian Garden, Gandel Hall will be used as a venue for openings and special events, as well as public programs, school and education activities.Stage Two

The proposed Stage Two of the building program includes completely new galleries in a new wing for Australian art.

These new galleries will bring Australian Art downstairs from the ?ttic‘ to an area of its own on the main level of the Gallery.

These galleries will be illuminated from above with sunlight, the same light by which most of the works were created.

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