The second stage of the Newcastle Art Gallery expansion will soon begin to take shape with work set to start next month.
Last night Councillors unanimously awarded the $43.8 million contract for the main construction works to Hansen Yuncken, which will take on the 18-month task of upgrading and more than doubling the size of the gallery.
Once complete the iconic Newcastle facility will be elevated to international standing and house the city’s nationally significant $126 million collection, which includes the paintings of the late Archibald Prize-winning landscape artist John Olsen.
Stage two will begin with site establishment in May while grouting of the historic mine tunnels, 80 metres below the building will continue for a few more weeks.
Almost 12,000 cubic metres of grout has been placed so far in the Borehole and Dudley seams, with the mine remediation to ensure the safety of the site ahead of the main expansion works now nearing completion.
Hansen Yuncken Regional NSW Business Development Manager Matt Bandy said they were very privileged to be selected for the project which would mean more jobs for Novocastrians.
“We use local sub-contractors and have a good base of them here to utilize and all our staff here in Newcastle,” Mr Bandy said.
The appointment of Hansen Yuncken marks a major milestone for the expansion which was first proposed back in 2005.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it has been a labour of love to get to this point and she was looking forward to being able to welcome the community back into the reimagined Art Gallery, with construction scheduled for completion in late 2024.
“Having had three children it is sort of like a fourth child for me,” Cr Nelmes said.
“The expansion of Newcastle Art Gallery will consolidate the Hunter’s reputation as an active and vibrant centre for the arts and culture, providing a significant cultural tourism opportunity for NSW”
“By more than doubling the size of the Gallery and delivering a suite of modern facilities, the expansion will provide greater access to our nationally significant collection and a wider range of prominent exhibitions.”
The expansion project is supported by $5 million from the Australian Government under the Regional Recovery Partnerships program and $5 million from the New South Wales Government, as well as $10.5 million from the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation made possible through the Valerie and John Ryan bequest, Margaret Olley Trust, and community fundraising over many years. A further $2.5 million is being sought through the Foundation’s public fundraising campaign.
A request is also being drafted to the state and federal governments asking them to consider indexing each of their $5 million grants in line with inflation so that Council does not have to shoulder any additional expenses.
When put to the Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon, she said if additional funding was required then it would be a matter for the relevant minister to assess.
“We have a very stringent process to ensure that grants are properly scrutinized,” Ms Claydon said.
The Albanese Government made good on its commitment to honour the $5 million grant made by the previous government for the expansion and Ms Claydon welcomed the progress of the project.
“This is a significant day for the upgrade of the Newcastle Art Gallery. I am delighted to see progress being made on the expansion of this major cultural asset,” Ms Claydon said.
“This project will further put Newcastle on the map as a cultural tourism destination, boost the economy and create jobs for locals.”