Former present of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) in NSW has challenged critics on their objections to the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ planned $380 million expansion.

Shaun Carter says that those opposed to the expansion are at risk of stopping Sydney from becoming “truly great” and urged them to “get out of [the gallery’s] road, and let a good public building be built.”

The expansion that Carter is defending will include a doubling of the gallery’s existing floor space to better facilitate travelling international exhibitions arriving from larger galleries around the world. Pritzker-winning architects Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa of Tokyo’s SANAA were chosen in 2015 for the new design.


The original concept presented by SANAA includes a series of glass and sandstone boxes that will flow across the gallery’s existing land bridge over towards the Cahill Expressway. Dubbed the Sydney Modern project, it is predicted to cost anywhere between $380 million to $450 million.

Even with this additional floor space, the Art Gallery of NSW will be smaller than the National Gallery of Victoria and Canberrra’s Australian National Gallery.

Carter’s defence is being taken as an indirect response to the release of ‘Culture Heist’, a new book by former executive director of the Art Gallery Society of NSW, Judith White. In the book, White claims that the Sydney Modern project is “poor timing” and “more grandiose than the project deserved”.

“It is a wonderful ambition to have new buildings, but it is a question of the right balance and the right time,” she said.

“This is a city that will spend $20,000 to $30,000 a square metre on a private residence and nobody says boo,” Carter said in a counter-argument. “And we hardly spend anything on public buildings [in comparison to other countries].”