Art of the deal: Geelong Gallery paints a picture of $120m expansion

May 5, 2022 BY

An artist's impression of a concept by John Wardle Architects for the expanded Geelong Gallery, as seen from Little Malop Street.

GEELONG Gallery says the time is now for a major and landmark expansion of its existing building, and is seeking up to $120 million from local, state and federal governments to help make it happen.

The gallery in Little Malop Street presently has the space to only show less than two per cent of its nationally significant collection at any one time.

It finished a business case in December last year in conjunction with the City of Greater Geelong and Regional Development Victoria, which laid out the plan to create a three-storey building in the existing Little Malop Street footprint.

The city has also endorsed the gallery’s plan to expand into the neighbouring Conference Centre and the shared use, with the city, of a ceremonial and civic space inside a redeveloped City Hall.

Funding commitments of between $110 million and $120 million over five years are being sought now so that the new facility can be built and opened by early 2027.

By 2035, the estimated benefits each year would include:

  • 350,000 visitors
  • Creative industry jobs for 25 full-time equivalent staff and 1,200 direct and indirect construction phase jobs
  • 20,000 education visitors and increased outreach to schools, and
  • 300 community events and 60 outreach programs.

“We’re talking to all levels of government – state and federal, on both sides of politics – to ascertain whether we can get some commitments,” Geelong Gallery director and chief executive Jason Smith said.

“We’ve made an enormous amount of progress in ensuring the project is known across government, and we’ve had very encouraging and supportive responses from ministers both at state and federal level.”

He said while the gallery was realistic about the present economic circumstances, the business case made a strong argument for investing in regional infrastructure, as well as tying into the coming Commonwealth Games and the need to finish Geelong’s cultural precinct, which includes the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre next door and the final stage of the under-construction Geelong Arts Centre across the street.

“We think – and so does government – it makes for a very powerful case.

“We’ve the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle; it must be completed.

“The gallery has to keep pace with the growth of the city, and the forecast growth of the city is phenomenal over the next 10 for 15 years.”

Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox announced earlier this month he would donate $100 million to the proposed NGV Contemporary in Melbourne. Mr Smith said this donation was “hugely encouraging” for Geelong Gallery’s ambitions.

“We see it as nothing but positive in terms of opening up the opportunities and thought processes for other philanthropists, who might not have $100 million, but they might have $10 million, or $1 million, or $100,000, to see what that can do to transform culture in a city.

“The gallery is committed to raising a significant amount through philanthropic sources and we’re currently working with some external consultants on a philanthropy strategy.”