Victoria plans to build the biggest contemporary arts gallery in the southern hemisphere, with $1.4 billion earmarked for the project from Tuesday’s state budget.
The NGV Contemporary Gallery, dedicated to contemporary art and design, will be built on Southbank Boulevard, behind the existing National Gallery of Victoria.
The NGV usually has about six million visitors a year and it’s hoped the new gallery will increase attendance by a further three million.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews believes the NGV spend is the biggest of its kind in Australia.
“We want even more visitors. We want to make sure that our facilities match the quality of our content,” he said.
NGV director Tony Ellwood says the development will mean the gallery can host more world-class contemporary exhibitions and provide more space for local artists.
“It will be best in class. There will be nothing like this in the rest of the country,” he said.
Mr Ellwood said contemporary art installations often required larger spaces and more load-bearing capacity than the current NGV building can handle.
Construction work is slated to start in 2023 and due to finish in 2028.
It’s expected to create 5000 construction jobs.
The announcement comes at the end of a difficult year for the arts in the state.
The widespread closure of Melbourne’s arts and entertainment institutions during lockdown has meant visitor numbers are down dramatically for 2020, with some institutions going into the red.
Attendance figures for 2020 plummeted at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Arts Centre after they were shut in mid-March when the pandemic hit.
NGV visitors fell from 2,936,480 to 2,072,968 over the 2019/20 financial year, with the gallery’s surplus dropping from $5.7 million to $2.5 million.