Sydney Times


Art Gallery of New South Wales Grand Courts refurbishment to restore heritage features of original galleries

Art Gallery of New South Wales Grand Courts refurbishment to restore heritage features of original galleries


A key aspect of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Sydney Modern Project expansion and transformation is the revitalisation of its much-loved historic building.


In 2020, the Art Gallery announced a program of works, now underway, to restore original architectural features, provide more space for art display and research, enhance the visitor experience, and support sustainable operations.


From 15 June, refurbishment works to the Grand Courts will commence. The work will include restoration of the heritage fabric of the galleries, repainting and removal of a staircase to staff offices added in the 1970s, as well as installation of new energy-saving LED lighting. During this time there will be no public access to the Grand Courts until they reopen in late 2021.

The Grand Courts were part of government architect Walter Liberty Vernon’s original design for the Art Gallery, with final plans approved at the end of 1895 and construction commencing the following year. The galleries, which hold over 300 works including 15th-19th century international art and 19th and 20th century Australian art, are considered the finest Victorian-era galleries in Australia.


Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said the revitalisation program taking place as the Art Gallery celebrates its 150th anniversary is designed to enhance the architecture of the building and prepare the way for a rehang of the Art Gallery’s collection.


“Sydney provides a unique perspective on the world that we will be referencing through a rehang of the collection in the revitalised Grand Courts and other galleries in our existing building. This rehang will provide a strong curatorial narrative across our expanded campus which incorporates the new SANAA-designed building.


“As we undertake the transformation of our magnificent site on Gadigal Country, we, like many museums globally, are working toward a more inclusive approach to engaging the public and a more global understanding of art,” Brand said.


Other capital works taking place across the Art Gallery include the revitalisation of the 19th-century entrance vestibule designed by Walter Liberty Vernon; opening up two balconies overlooking the double-height gallery in the 20th-century Australian galleries designed by Andrew Andersons as part of the Gallery’s 1972 expansion; the expansion and relocation of the Capon Research Library and National Art Archive with full accessibility; new and expanded facilities for members and volunteers, and new and upgraded public amenities.


The refurbishment and restoration works to the existing building are scheduled for completion in 2022. The Art Gallery remains open throughout this period.


Current and upcoming exhibitions:

Longing for Home
Until 22 August 2021

The National 2021: New Australian Art
Until 5 September 2021

Brett Whiteley Printmaker
Until 11 July 2021 | Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills

The Way We Eat
Until 2022

Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2021 (ticketed)
5 June – 26 September 2021

Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize (ticketed)
5 June – 26 September 2021

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings (ticketed)
12 June – 19 September 2021

The Purple House
4 September 2021 – 2022

Matisse Alive
October 2021 – 2022

Family: A View from Here
6 November 2021 – 13 February 2022

Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris (ticketed)
20 November 2021 – 13 March 2022



Art Gallery of New South Wales history to be published
To coincide with the 150th anniversary, the first book on the Art Gallery’s history will be published later this year. Written by the Gallery’s long-standing archivist Steven Miller, the book explores the social and cultural values that produced this iconic institution and tracks how it has morphed and modernised in step with those values – and ahead of them – for the last century and a half.


About Art Gallery of New South Wales | On Gadigal Country 

The Art Gallery of New South Wales acknowledges the traditional custodians of the country on which it is located, the Gadigal of the Eora nation, and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. From its magnificent site in Sydney, the Art Gallery of NSW is one of Australia’s flagship art museums and the state’s leading visual arts institution. The Gallery’s mission is to serve the widest possible audience as a centre of excellence for the collection, preservation, documentation, interpretation and display of Australian and international art, and a forum of scholarship, art education and the exchange of ideas.


Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2021, as it embarks on a significant expansion, the Art Gallery of NSW remains committed to making art a vital part of everyday life. The transformation of the  Gallery – the $344 million Sydney Modern Project – will create a new art museum experience across two buildings connected by a public art garden in one of the world’s most beautiful cultural precincts. A new standalone building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA and a revitalised historic building will bring together art, architecture and landscape in spectacular new ways, with dynamic galleries and seamless connections between indoor and outdoor spaces. Together with the NSW Government’s $244 million in funding, the Gallery has raised more than $100 million from private donors to support the expansion making the Sydney Modern Project the largest government and philanthropic arts partnership of its kind to date in Australia.  The project is scheduled for completion in late 2022 and the Gallery remains open during construction.


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