Does the NGA’s new extension eclipse The Aboriginal Memorial?

Imagine my surprise when I was shouted at for attempting to photograph the new architectural extension at the National Gallery of Australia! There are no signs forbidding such activity. Just an ambiguous little pamphlet you could ask for at the desk. “I wish to photograph the space, so that I can critique the architecture” I said. No way! came the reply… So you’ll have to make do with my drawing of the core structure of the building extension (by Andrew Andersons).

The two story main gallery contains a cylindrical form which appears to hang from the ceiling above the Aboriginal Memorial, containing a dome to echo the Turrell outside. The access ramp separates the Memorial from the outside world. Upstairs the cylinder provides the structure to contain the quadruply unfortunate corridor gallery in which are hung the Gallery’s collection of early Papunya boards. Quadruply unfortunate for (a) the colour of the gallery, (b) the unavoidable view of the fixtures behind the boards on the convex wall, (c) your inability to get a long or comparative view, and (d) the claustrophobic sense that you’ve got to keep moving down the tunnel. Like the entrance to the Musee du Quai Branly. We’ve heard Norman Day on ABC Artworks, but other reactions to the facelift have been few and far between. So who out there would like to write a comprehensive critique of the building in its new guise?

Here’s the NGA’s own view of itself…

And here is a NGA photograph looking the other way.

And notice the subtlety of the ring of circular airconditioning ducts embedded in the gravel which encircles the poles? Framed by invisible sculptures! I wonder who thought of that?

And this is how it currently appears on the Tourism Australia website… Which gives you a sense of how the design was virtualised to the Gallery at an earlier stage of decision-making.

This and other images of The Aboriginal Memorial can be found on the NGA’s Flickr feed.

P.S. For an example of the positive spin, read Christopher Menz’ commentary in the ABR.


#1 max on 10.15.10 at 11:49 am

Why didn’t you just continue taking pictures? It’s a public building with a public collection, isn’t it? What do you think would have happened?

#2 moth on 10.26.10 at 1:45 am

Architectural rendering is delightful, better than a photo.

#3 Tony Hanning on 11.03.10 at 8:59 pm

The Gallery with its projected burial poles looks remarkably like the packet of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes George Hawkes was handing around at the openings of Art of the Western Desert in the early seventies. Commodifying sacred indigenous art is bad enough. Mounting a display of burial poles on a carpet of blue metal is seriously disrespectful and projecting images of the poles onto forms that make the poles look like cigarettes is indicative of deeper problems.

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