12 June 2022

National Gallery faces funding crisis to maintain building

| Ian Bushnell
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The National Gallery of Australia building.

The 40-year-old National Gallery of Australia building needs to replace major assets. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) will not be able to replace major ageing assets over the next five years without a substantial injection of funding, according to an independent review.

The report commissioned from Ventia Property states the NGA will need to spend $87 million over the next five years on 73 projects – including security, fire, lighting, and heating and cooling systems. But the gallery faces a funding shortfall of $67 million based on its current average capital works budget of $4 million a year.

Years of cuts and neglect mean much of the work is overdue.

The report states an increased risk of failure and breakdown is putting its $6 billion collection and staff at risk, and incurring reputational damage for the NGA.

Ventia assessed 27 of the 73 projects as Very High Risk or High Risk and says the NGA should seek a minimum of $50 million to undertake the works as a priority.

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Ventia also identifies a lack of planning for the end-of-life replacement of major assets.

It urges disciplined project management to set realistic targets and ensure objectives are identified and delivered to avoid breakdowns.

The report states gallery operations will continue to delay the delivery of projects. It recommends the NGA considers shutting part or all of the gallery for a period of time, similar to the recent National Portrait Gallery project, to allow it to complete disruptive works quickly and efficiently.

“Without clear communications and understanding of gallery changeovers and a schedule, delivery of projects cannot be planned and delivered within expected timeframes and utilisation of funding will not be achieved in the allocated financial years,” the report states.

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Ventia says the NGA can save money by bundling tenders to reduce construction costs, project management fees and ongoing disruption to the gallery.

The NGA commissioned Ventia in July last year to review its five-year Strategic Asset Management Plan. Completed in August, the plan has just come to public light.

NGA director Nick Mitzevich would not comment on the report until he had briefed new Arts Minister Tony Burke.

The NGA was officially opened by the Queen in 1982 and has been extended twice. It holds more than 166,000 works of art, is one Canberra’s great national attractions, and hosts blockbuster exhibitions from across Australia and around the world.

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The trumpian LNP attack on the Arts while they ran (not govern) Australia has come to an end. Thank heavens we now have a decent government in power and I am sure Anthony will use some of the pork-barrelled money that Barnarby was about to share with his regional mates, to maintain OUR museum.

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