Established in 1871, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is the leading museum of art in New South Wales and Sydney, and one of Australia's foremost cultural institutions. It holds significant collections of Australian, European and Asian art.
In December 2022, AGNSW officially opened the Sydney Modern Project, an expansive new second museum building touted as the most significant cultural development to be established in the Harbour City since the Sydney Opera House. While everyone and their dog is referring to this gargantuan new gallery as "the Sydney Modern", it is actually officially called the 'Art Gallery of NSW North Building', while the original structure is now called the 'Art Gallery of NSW South Building'.
You cannot fully comprehend the scale of the mammoth new building – designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA – until you descend down from the ground floor entrance, through the three limestone-clad art pavilions that gently step down towards the harbour, and wander out onto the more than 3,400 square metres of accessible roof ‘art terraces’ and courtyards. Around every corner, new spaces emerge, and reveal with them entirely new styles and arrangements of art. Keep heading down to the fourth level below ground to discover the Tank, an adaptive re-use of a 2,200-square-metre former Second World War fuel bunker.
Rather than obstructing the sweeping views of the city, the architecture of the newer North Building embraces the scenery. Sheer glass-panelled walls, a Wonka-esque glass elevator and layers of escalators with glass railings all work to showcase the landscape as an artwork in its own right. Natural light plays a big role, and on a particularly sunny day the rays stream through those clear walls and the ripped cover to the entrance foyer to light up the indoor and outdoor artworks better than any specially rigged electric lights.
The Art Gallery of NSW is open every day from 10am to 5pm (except for Christmas Day) and on Wednesday nights it opens the doors until 9pm. Most exhibitions are free to roam, and some blockbuster shows require a ticket.