The new gallery will be the focal point of a revamped arts precinct in the Melbourne CBD. The project will be worth up to A$1 billion.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on June 4, 2018

Construction for the giant new gallery is expected to begin within 18 months and be completed in the mid 2020s.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the new gallery will be triple the size of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

The gallery, to be known as The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Contemporary, will be home to contemporary art and design exhibitions. It will be housed at the Carlton and United Breweries Southbank site the Victorian government purchased earlier this year at a cost of A$95 million.

A “game changer” for cultural tourism

“This once-in-a-generation redevelopment of Southbank and the arts precinct will create thousands of jobs and attract millions of visitors from across Victoria, Australia and the world,” said Andrews.

“It’s a game changer for our city that will cement Melbourne as the cultural capital of Australia.”

NGV director Tony Ellwood said he was the “happiest gallery director in Australia.”.

“This means an enormous amount for Victoria.

“To actually really capitalise on the strength in numbers around contemporary art and design and to create a building of this magnitude, with this kind of vision, really consolidates our position as the leader in the arts in this country.”

He added that the NGV buildings needed an upgrade to deal with increased visitor demand. The recent NGV Triennial had drawn almost 1.3 million visitors, and up to 20,000 on a single day.

The dollar value of the creative industries

A statement released by Andrews said The Arts Centre Melbourne and the NGV account for six million annual visitors to Melbourne, twice as many as those who visit for events at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It goes on to say that creative industries support almost a quarter of a million jobs in Victoria.

A previous statement from the Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, highlighted the economic impact of museums and galleries.

“Creative industries contribute A$23 billion to Victoria’s economy every year and draw many thousands of visitors to Victoria, supporting jobs across the state,” it read.

More than just a new gallery

The project will also free up some 18,000 square metres of public space and includes upgrades to the Arts Centre, the Australian Music Vault and the introduction of a new pedestrian corridor with bars and restaurants.

The construction phase is expected to create 10,000 jobs, with another 260 permanent jobs to be created when the project is complete.

The state government will also rely on funding from Melbourne’s philanthropic community to complete the project.

Details of the latter stages of funding will be announced later, but Andrews was confident the funds will materialise. “It’s not a question of whether it will happen, this is going to happen and the first stage is fully funded,” he said.

“This is a very, very exciting project.”

Reactions to the announcement

Max Delany, Artistic Director and CEO of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), told Arts Hub the new precinct would be an exciting addition to the Melbourne CBD.

“Melbourne is all the richer for its dynamic and diverse arts ecology, and we look forward to working with our neighbours towards creating a more vibrant cultural precinct, across all levels of art practice and appreciation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Heidi Victoria, Shadow Minister for Arts and Culture, took aim at the lack of detail provided for the later stages of funding.

“It’s really disappointing for me that what the Government has come out with is a dream.

“We’re all allowed to have dreams, but ideally if you’re going to make them public you need to find a way to make them come true.”