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AGNSW: a museum for the Asian Century / Sydney

The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia announced a master plan to transform itself into an art museum for “the Asian Century, in an inter-connected and digitized world.”

The working title for the Gallery’s vision is “Sydney Modern”. The proposal includes plans to double the museum’s size; an national and international architectural competition to produce a design for the new building; greater use of technology including Smartphone apps for non-English speaking visitors; a greater collaboration with international art museums; and more capacity to accommodate an increase in visitation from 1.3 million per annum to 2 million by 2021.

The president of the Board of Trustees, Mr Steven Lowy AM said: “Other art museums in Australia and across the region are already responding to the growing demand from local audiences and international visitors and Sydney risks being left behind by projects now underway in Singapore, Hong Kong and San Francisco.”

Dr Michael Brand, who joined the Gallery as its Director in June 2012 after serving as Director of the J Paul Getty Museum, LA from 2005 – 2010, said that despite the success of the Gallery in building one of Australia’s finest collections of Australian and international art, both historical and contemporary, the existing building alone was not able to meet current demand, let alone properly serve its audience into the 21st century.

The plan follows a series of serious budget cuts at the Gallery. A few weeks ago, Brand axed the position of Head of Asian Art in a bold move to combine the gallery’s Asian and International departments.

The project will require funding of some several hundred million dollars. The project aims to be completed by 2021, the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1871.