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Art Gallery NSW new forecourt render
Photograph: Supplied/AGNSW

Art Gallery of NSW has unveiled plans for a major upgrade of its forecourt

It includes adding more trees and two new reflection pools

Stephen A Russell
Written by
Stephen A Russell

The Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) will get a swish new forecourt as part of the Sydney Modern Project, a huge expansion of the beloved venue that will add a whole new building as well as transform the existing spaces.

Designed by internationally acclaimed landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson – known for her work on the Site Tour Eiffel in Paris and the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London’s Hyde Park – the new look civic space will be fabulous.

Gustafson’s re-do removes the car park up front in favour of adding 850sqm of additional public space. That includes two polished granite reflection pools in front of the gallery's grand facade, with the forecourt’s existing low stone heritage walls reconstructed and raised to provide plenty of extra seating. There will also be more trees planted to create shady spots so visitors can escape the sun.

The forecourt glow up will connect the main building to an outdoor art campus, created around and between the existing gallery and the brand new building, which has been designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA and is currently under construction. AGNSW is working side-by-side with  the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain Trust to make sure everything connects seamlessly. Construction has already started, with the entire Sydney Modern Project scheduled to complete late next year. The main entrance on Art Gallery Road will be open throughout.

“Public open space is more important than ever as we seek out places of peace, reflection and to celebrate the joy of life,” Gustafson says. “Our goal with the Sydney Modern Project is to create a flexible and welcoming place for all visitors, where they can connect with the natural and cultural environment in this stunning location.” 

AGNSW director Michael Brand can’t wait to see visitors explore the new spaces. “It will provide an exceptional experience of art, architecture and landscape for everyone to enjoy in one of the world’s most beautiful urban location. Kathryn Gustafson’s design… As we celebrate our 150th anniversary, we look forward to the next 150 years and are pleased to be creating a new home for art that is responsive to this era and generations to come.”

Elsewhere in investment in the arts news (because we all need a little positivity right now), renowned theatre company Bell Shakespeare are getting swanky new digs with a little help from a $3 million boost from philanthropic benefactor the Neilson Foundation.

They’re moving into new digs at Pier 2/3 as part of the NSW Government plan to establish the Walsh Bay Arts and Cultural Precinct. The new HQ for Bell Shakespeare includes studio space for rehearsals and events and a mini theatre with Harbour Bridge views, dubbed the Neilson Nutshell. It will welcome 296 audience members and can be set up in multiple configurations.

Bell Shakespeare artistic director Peter Evans says, “Not only will it help us establish our very first multi-purpose performance space, it will also underpin our plans for an artistic ensemble and support our programming for the next several years. It is truly transformational, and we wholeheartedly thank the Neilson family who have been long-time supporters of Bell Shakespeare and who continue to provide such widespread support across the arts sector.”

Read the incredible story behind a little-known painting at Art Gallery of NSW here

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