The Art Gallery of WA – a dramatic example of late Brutalist architecture built in 1979 in Perth – is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

To commemorate this major milestone, the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA) is organising a series of special exhibitions, events and talks as part of AGWA 40 to be held from 21 September 2019 until 3 February 2020.

In addition to the focus on the Brutalist building, the art of the 1970s will also be revisited at the AGWA 40 exhibition. While the development and design of the building will be explored at the exhibit ‘Perth Brutal: Dreaming in Concrete’, the art of the 1970s in WA can be experienced at the exhibition ‘That Seventies Feeling...the Late Modern’.

Designed by Polish-born architect Charles Sierakowski in a Brutalist style, the Art Gallery of WA building was opened on 2 October 1979 by then Premier Charles Court to mark the 150th anniversary of the Western Australian State's foundation.

AGWA acting director Colin Walker says, “In 1979 the building lifted the bar and was a very brave way of marking the State’s 150th anniversary. Time has proved it to be a highly functional and timeless gallery as well as popular version of Brutalism, an architectural movement which otherwise had a mixed reception in the following decades."

The hexagonal plan and generous proportions of Sierakowski's design transformed the way the gallery exhibited works. With 3500sqm of display space, the unique building was designed around 120-degree angles that created several unusual vistas from different spaces within the gallery.

Dunja Rmandić, AGWA associate curator of 21st Century Arts, said, "Late Modernism, with its roots in Bauhaus principles, was an exciting period of architectural innovation mixed with social utopianism. Grand architecture was no longer defined by decorative elements, but by practicality, open spaces enabling social interaction and aesthetic minimalism. No longer only for the privileged to enjoy, it was now also for the masses to live in and work in, to experience culture in, democratically. Charles Sierakowski’s design for the Gallery is among Australia’s best Brutalist designs, combining practicality and a focus on how best to experience art by creating flexible vistas and open spaces using a simple modular principle."

The exhibit, ‘Perth Brutal: Dreaming in Concrete’ tracks the iconic building’s development through images of its construction and early days, along with building models, plans, diagrams and drawings.

Symposium | Perth Brutal

A symposium celebrating the 40th anniversary of the AGWA building and Perth’s early role in the architectural style in Australia, will be held on Wednesday 2 October 2019, 9am-3pm.

Speakers include Dr Robert Cook, AGWA curator of 20th Century Arts; Dunja Rmandić, AGWA associate curator of 21st Century Arts; Melissa Harpley, AGWA curator of 19th Century Arts | Manager of Collections; Winthrop Professor Simon Anderson, The University of Western Australia; Dr Annette Condello, director of graduate research at the School of Design and the Built Environment, Curtin University; and Andrew Murray, PhD candidate, School of Design, University of Melbourne.

This will be followed by guided tours of the AGWA building, Perth Brutal: Dreaming in Concrete and the iconic Brutalist Curtin University campus.

For more information, please visit the Art Gallery of WA site.

Image: Photography by Fritz Kos - Art Gallery of Western Australia 1979 (Sourced from the collections of the State Library of Western Australia and reproduced with the permission of the Library Board of Western Australia)