Melbourne Journal: Australia’s largest gallery will add to this city’s vibrant arts district.

Bird’s eye view of the Melbourne’s South Bank Arts District, showing locaton of proposed NGV Contemporary gallery (artist impression HASSELL + SO-IL)

by Ron Bernthal

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) announced in late 2020 that The Ian Potter Foundation has pledged AUD$20 million (USD$15 million) towards the building of Australia’s largest contemporary art gallery, the NGV Contemporary.

Proposed NGV Contemporary exterior view with umbrella’s on outside patio (rendering courtesy Government of Victoria)

The funding is part of a AUD$1.4 billion (USD$1 billion) project to revitalize Melbourne’s Southbank Arts district, including work on the existing NGV International gallery, the Arts Centre Melbourne, the district’s new public gardens, and the proposed NGV Contemporary.

To be located on Southbank Boulevard, the NGV Contemporary will be a landmark, purpose-built gallery of architectural significance dedicated to displaying important local, national and international contemporary art and design in the heart of the Melbourne’s South Bank Arts District. Once completed in 2025, the NGV Contemporary gallery will span more than 322,000 square-feet, making it the largest facility of its kind in Australia.

View of proposed gardens adjacent to NGV Contemporary in artist rendering. (rendering HASSELL + SO-IL)

The NGV Contemporary gallery will elevate Melbourne’s reputation as a thriving and dynamic destination for art and design within Australia and the South Pacific region, and provide visitors with an unprecedented opportunity to experience the breadth of the NGV’s collection of contemporary art and design, along with a year-round program of major contemporary exhibitions of international significance.

“NGV Contemporary will definitely have a transformative impact on our city,” said Charles Goode AC, Director, NGV. “Projects like this ensure that Melbourne will always be a place of vibrancy and a source of cultural pride for our community. The Ian Potter Foundation is proud to support the development of NGV Contemporary and we hope to encourage further commitments of support from a variety of philanthropic, corporate and community members who share our passion for a culturally rich and diverse arts sector.”

The new NGV Contemporary will strengthen the NGV’s reputation for promoting local and international design at its major pre-existing galleries, the NGV International on St Kilda Road, and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square.

Ian Potter Centre, NGV International, Federation Square (photo © Kersh Kreative)

The NGV Contemporary will be connected to the wider Melbourne Arts District through an expansive 193,000 square-feet of elevated public gardens, with horticulture and planting design experts James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnett (UK). NGV Contemporary will sit as the cornerstone of a multi-billion dollar state government plan to redevelop the arts district.

The design competition, exclusively for Australian architects with a principal project design studio in Melbourne, will run across the year in four stages: a two-part expression of interest round, then a two-part design round for eight finalists. The successful design team and preferred design will be considered by the government and announced in late 2021.

The masterplan transformation of the arts district has been fast-tracked due to its importance in reviving interstate tourism within Australia, and has been modeled after New York’s elevated Highline. The new NGV Contemporary will connect to the Southbank Arts District and St Kilda Road through an expansive 193,000 square-feet of an elevated public gardens.

View of public gardens, with NGV Contemporary in background.
(rendering HASSELL + SO-IL)

When completed, the NGV Contemporary will showcase contemporary art, design, fashion and architecture of local, national and international significance. Larger gallery spaces will accommodate a variety of the NGV’s exhibition program including Triennial, the architecture commission, large-scale contemporary and art commissions, fashion exhibitions, and major exhibitions of the world’s top artists and designers.

“Having Australia’s largest contemporary gallery designed by Australians is a tremendous outcome,” said Tim Leslie, Victoria state manager of The Australian Institute of Architects. “Procuring local architectural talent, which Australia has in abundance, will have a vast multiplier effect on the benefits this landmark project will deliver, concentrating them locally where they are needed most.”

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews describes the Southbank and arts redevelopment as a “once-in- a- generation” project that will attract visitors from across the country and the world. “It’s a game-changer for our city that will cement Melbourne as the cultural capital of Australia,” Andrews said. The Arts Centre Melbourne and NGV International combined to attract more than six million visitors each year.

Night view of NGV International (photo courtesy NGV Photographic Services)

“As we recover from this pandemic, it makes sense that we play to our strengths,” said Danny Pearson, Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries. “And our creative industries are the heart and soul of Victoria, and a major driver of our economy and jobs. These projects will make sure more Victorians can enjoy all the things that make life great, and all the things we’ve missed so much.”