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May 20 2011

Art Gallery of New South Wales Unveils New Space Built for the Kaldor Collection

by Michael Young

John Kaldor and Edmund Capon, director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, in front of a Ugo Rondinone work. Courtesy Art Gallery of New South Wales.

With his customary man-of-the-people swagger and a shout to the press junket crowded behind him, “You lot in here,” Edmund Capon, director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), unveiled on May 17 the AGNSW’s new contemporary art gallery, which is set to house the biggest display of contemporary art in Australia. 

The centerpiece is art patron John Kaldor’s AUD 35-million collection of national and international contemporary art put together by Kaldor over 50 years and which, in 2008, he gifted to the AGNSW in what was the single largest art donation to an Australian public gallery.

A key component of the project was the New South Wales State Government funding of a new AUD 26.7 million off-site storage facility that freed up the AGNSW’s basement spaces. In what appears to be an astonishing architectural sleight of hand, the architect Andrew Andersons—who also designed the 1968–70 extension under which the new gallery sits—has created cavernous, bright exhibition spaces, adding 3,300 square meters to the AGNSW’s overall exhibition space. The ceilings are high and the walls expansive.

Installation view of John Kaldor Family Gallery: (front) RICHARD LONGSpring Showers Circle, 1992; (left) GILBERT AND GEORGEDig, 2005; (back) UGO RONDINONE, Clockwork for Oracles, 2011; (right) RICHARD LONGSouthern Gravity, 2011. Copyright the artists. Courtesy Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The Kaldor collection comprises more than 200 pieces of mostly museum-quality work and shows Kaldor’s highly refined, but ultimately personal, focus on conceptual work. In one gallery is Southern Gravity (2011), a mural made of mud by Richard Long; Clockwork for Oracles (2011), a wall of multicolored glass panels by Ugo Rondinone; two wrapped trees by Christo and Jeanne-Claude from 1969; several sublime Sol Le Witt wall drawings and a recreation of Kaldor’s Sol Le Witt-painted bedroom from 2003.

The new gallery will also allow the AGNSW to bring out of storage many of its rarely seen contemporary pieces such as Ricky Swallow’s Killing Time (2003–04), the life-sized table with sea-food banquet all meticulously crafted from wood that glows like an altar within this art temple.

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