Art Gallery of South Australia

Art Gallery of South Australia

South Australia had an art collection well before it had a permanent art gallery. In 1856 the artist Christopher Hill proposed that a South Australian Society for the Arts be established. From 1859 this was incorporated with the Public Library and Museum, and it used rooms in the Institute Building on the corner of Kintore Avenue and North Terrace. In 1882 the Art Gallery and collection moved into the new Public Library. Needing yet more space, it then moved into the Jubilee Exhibition Building, also on North Terrace (now demolished).

Finally, on receiving a bequest of £25,000 from Sir Thomas Elder in 1898 for “the purchase of pictures only”, the government was moved to build a proper gallery. However colonial finances were short due to the depression. The gallery’s curator, H.P. Gill, had firm ideas on housing his works of art, but so did the superintendent of Public Works, C.E. Owen Smyth. Limited funds led to him building a quite utilitarian-looking gallery. Gill had his way with some essential features, notably the skylight in the roof, which allowed the natural light to pass through “a ceiling light of ground glass … following the curve of the ceiling”.

N.W. Trudgen started building work in 1898. A basement was included as the ground fell away from North Terrace. Auburn stone was used in the basement and Murray Bridge stone above the base. The governor Lord Tennyson opened the gallery to a flourish of trumpets on April 7, 1899.

The Quiz of April 14, 1900, observed “an absence of anything that could be called artistic in the structure” yet conceded “but after all we have got ahead of Sydney so far as the outward appearance of the housing of art is concerned”. Once inside, “one forgets the rude external in the excellent appointments and arrangements of the interior”.

The original building (the Elder Wing) had to wait for another private donation to enable any artistic embellishment. Like Bonython’s donation to complete Parliament House, this was made to commemorate South Australia’s centenary in 1936. Alexander Melrose bequeathed £10,000 that subsidised government to double the size of the gallery. A new facade, entrance vestibule and the Melrose Wing were built under the supervision of A.E. Simpson. The extensions were opened in 1937.

In 1962 the premier, Sir Thomas Playford, opened a new north wing “to meet the need for additional space to display not only the special exhibitions generated for the Festival [of Arts] but those which were regularly becoming available to tour Australia in the growing cultural exchange programs”.

In 1978-79 the whole building was upgraded to accepted international standards. H.P. Gill’s beautiful old roof lanterns were kept but they now contain lighting gantries and screens to eliminate damaging ultraviolet light.


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From Wikipedia

Art Gallery of South Australia
Established 1881
Location North Terrace, Adelaide, Australia
Type Art gallery
Visitors 712,994

The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), located on the cultural boulevard of North Terrace in Adelaide, is one of three significant visual arts museums in the Australian state of South Australia. It has a collection of over 38,000 works of art,[1] making it, after the National Gallery of Victoria, the second largest state art collection in Australia.[2] It was known as the National Gallery of South Australia until 1967 when the current name was adopted.

The Art Gallery is located adjacent to the State Library of South Australia, the South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide. AGSA is part of Adelaide's North Terrace cultural precinct and had 712,994[3] visitors in the year ended 30 June 2011. As well as its permanent collection, AGSA displays a number of visiting exhibitions each year[4] and contributes travelling exhibitions to regional galleries.[5]


The gallery was established in 1881 and opened in two rooms of the public library by Prince Albert Victor and Prince George, later George V of Great Britain. The present building dates from 1900 and was extended in 1936 and 1962.[6] Subsequent renovations and a significant extension of the building which opened in 1996 added contemporary display space without compromising the interior of the original Victorian building.

In 2016, the gallery participated in the large "Biennial 2016" art festival.[7]


AGSA director Nick Mitzevich addressing Museums Australia conference delegates, September 2012.

The AGSA is renowned for its collections of Australian art, notably Indigenous Australian and colonial art, British art, including a large collection of Pre-Raphaelite works, by artists Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Morris & Co., and Japanese art.[8]

It has important works of the Heidelberg school including Tom Roberts' A break away!, Charles Conder's A holiday at Mentone, and Arthur Streeton's Road to Templestowe.[6] The mid-twentieth century is represented by works by Russell Drysdale, Arthur Boyd, Margaret Preston, Bessie Davidson, and Sidney Nolan. The gallery holds works by twentieth century South Australian artists including James Ashton, Hans Heysen and Jeffrey Smart.

European landscape paintings include works by Jacob Isaakszoon van Ruisdael, Salomon van Ruysdael, Joseph Wright of Derby,[8] and Camille Pissarro.[9]

British portrait painters are well represented in the collection which includes Robert Peake, Anthony van Dyck, Peter Lely and Thomas Gainsborough.[8]

Other works include paintings by Goya, Francesco Guardi, Pompeo Batoni and Camille Corot.[8] Sculpture includes works by Rodin, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Jacob Epstein.[8]


See also


  1. ^ Art Gallery of South Australia > Visit Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  2. ^ Adelaide: Art Gallery of SA Extensions, Architecture Australia, May/June 1996. Accessed on 2007-05-19.
  3. ^ Annual Report of the Art Gallery of South Australia
  4. ^ AGSA Exhibitions
  5. ^ AGSA Touring Exhibitions 2011 Archived 3 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b Barbara Cooper and Maureen Matheson, The World Museums Guide, McGraw-Hill, (1973) ISBN 9780070129252
  7. ^ "Biennial 2016: A Thread Runs Through It". The Art Review, May 10, 2016 by Annie van der Walt
  8. ^ a b c d e AGSA Collection
  9. ^ Art Gallery of South Australia acquires $4.5 million French Impressionist painting ABC News, 22 August 2014. retrieved 5 February 2018.

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Coordinates: 34°55′14″S 138°36′14″E / 34.920638°S 138.603939°E / -34.920638; 138.603939

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