The SA Liberal Government today allocated $60m. in its inaugural Budget for the first stages of construction of a world-leading Aboriginal art and cultures gallery on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site at the end of North Terrace in the city. Premier Marshall is also setting aside $200,000 for a consultation to define precisely what the building is needed for, in conjunction with both the Art Gallery of SA and the SA Museum. Construction is aimed to start in 2022 and further construction funding will be needed in future State Budgets.

Counter-intuitively, the winning design has already been chosen ahead of that study “ with an acclaimed New York architecture practice and a leading Adelaide group named as the winning team to create “a dynamic new art space” on Adelaide’s celebrated North Terrace.

Arts South Australia and selection committee Chair, Michael Lynch announced that the team led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (US) with Woods Bagot (Australia) won the Adelaide Contemporary International Design Competition. The winning team’s concept design reconciled the brief for a dynamic people-friendly new place with a skilfully-organised gallery, while also incorporating a performance lab, a dramatic ˜Super Lobby’, floating top-floor sky galleries and a suspended rooftop garden. The garden, inspired by ˜Minkunthi‘, the Kaurna word ˜to relax’, would display the planting of a pre-colonised South Australian landscape, linking the idea of the contemporary to Kaurna ecological and cultural history.

The new gallery and public sculpture park is envisaged as “one of the most significant new arts initiatives of 21st-century Australia”, providing a national focal point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and cultures, as well as new spaces for major exhibitions like Tarnanthi, performances by visiting Indigenous groups, and the opportunity to unlock the hidden treasures of South Australia’s State collections, mainly held by the SA Museum.

Also today, in the NT, another step towards delivering its National Aboriginal Art Gallery was achieved with Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss announcing members of the National Reference Group. The Group will provide advice on delivery of the project, advocate nationally and help progress the recommendations outlined in the expert steering committee report on the implementation and operation of the Gallery.

Ms Moss confidently predicted: Built in the heart of Australia, the National Aboriginal Art Gallery will become a globally significant institution that celebrates Aboriginal art and culture and create jobs and economic opportunities. This is a project that will capture the hearts and minds of the nation as an emblem for a shared future between our first peoples and the broader Australian community.

Based on a two-year term, 15 members will be appointed from across Australia including:
Dr Gerard Vaughan, AM – past Director, National Gallery of Australia
Ms Margo Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator and Indigenous Advisor to the Director, National Museum of Australia
Ms Rhoda Roberts, AO – Head of First Nations Programming, Sydney Opera House
Ms Helen Martin – Chair of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Tourism Advisory Council, originally from Irlpme, an environ of Alice Springs
Mr Frank Howarth – past National President of Museums Galleries Australia and former director of the Australian Museum
Mr John Mawurndjul, AM – Kuninjku bark painter and sculptor and a leading Aboriginal artist from Maningrida Arts and Culture Centre
Mr Malcolm Jagmarra Maloney – Warlpiri elder and Aboriginal artist from Central Australia
Ms Freja Carmichael – Quandamooka woman, descendant of the Ngugi people belonging to Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and Moorgumpin (Moreton Island) and is currently visiting curator at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art, collaborating on The Commute: First Nations Sovereignties and Dialogues Across the Great Ocean
A representative from the National Gallery of Australia
A representative from the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

Local (Alice Springs):
Mr Benedict Kngwarraye Stevens – Apmereke artweye (Traditional owner) for Mparntwe
Mr Phillip Watkins – CEO Desart, the co-Chair of Initial Scoping Steering Committee
Mr Robert Campbell – CEO, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation
Mr Luke Scholes – Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, MAGNT
Ms Elliat Rich – Local Alice Springs-based designer.

Meanwhile, other critical project planning activity is underway including recruitment for a Project Implementation team (which will work with and take guidance from the National Reference Group) to be located in Alice Springs, and developing an Aboriginal Workforce and Enterprise Development Plan to achieve majority Aboriginal management and workforce by the time the Gallery opens in 2022.

Expect updates soon from Mark Crees, the projects current Interim Director, Project Implementation Team, National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Museum (NATSIAM) – perhaps even the name of the Director he was beginning the recruitment of in May.

Aboriginal Arts Directory suspects that the race is on! Or should they talk to each other???