Art Gallery of Western Australia

The Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) is a public State art gallery that is part of the Perth Cultural Centre, in Perth, Western Australia. It is located near the Western Australian Museum and State Library of Western Australia and is supported and managed by the WA Government Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. The current gallery main building opened in 1979 and will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019. It is linked to the old court house – The Centenary Galleries — which house the historical collection. 2020 is the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the institution.[1]

Art Gallery of Western Australia
Location within Perth, Western Australia
LocationPerth Cultural Centre, Perth, Western Australia
Coordinates31.9507°S 115.8610°E / -31.9507; 115.8610
TypeArt gallery
Collection size17,000
DirectorStefano Carboni
OwnerGovernment of Western Australia
Public transit accessPerth railway station, Transperth

The Gallery is visited by approximately 400,000 people annually. It houses the State's art collection consisting of over 17,000 works of art including c3,000 Indigenous works.[2].


The Art Gallery was originally housed in the Jubilee Building with the State Museum and Library.[1] The Jubilee Building, which was intended to be a public library only, was to be opened in honour of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, but instead, only the first stone for the foundation was laid.[1] The foundation stone was laid for the Art Gallery in July 1901 by the Duke of Cornwall and York, shortly after the federation of Australia.[1]

Several notable individuals were involved with the development of the Jubilee Building and Art Gallery, including John Winthrop Hackett, James Battye, Ludwig Glauert, George Pitt Morison and George Temple-Poole.[1] Sir James Dromgole Linton recommended purchases for the State Art Collection.[2]

The Art Gallery Administration Building is housed in the former Police Quarters, designed by architect Hillson Beasley, who also designed Government House.[3] It was built during the economic boom created by the 1890s Kalgoorlie gold rush.[3] The Administration Building moved into the Police Quarters in the 1970s during the nickel mining boom.[3]

The Main Gallery Building was built in 1977, and was also spurred by the mining boom.[4] Western Australia was also placing more importance on cultural institutions, and the government was inspired by the upcoming 150th anniversary of federation in 1979.[4] Construction of the Alexander Library began in the same period.[4]

The architect of the main gallery building was K. Sierakowski from the Public Works Department, who worked with engineer Philip Nadebaum and architectural company, Summerhayes and Associates.[4] It was designed in the Bauhaus method with a Brutalist exterior, which was popular in European design.[4] The slab and shear head column system was an innovative architectural feature in WA at the time.[4]

In 2017 AGWA announced plans to redevelop its sizable rooftop as focus for sculpture, events, restaurants, film etc in a project called AGWA Elevate” targeted for opening before the Gallery’s anniversary in 2020. The WA State government has pledged $10m towards this project. ‘Six Seasons” a high profile project to increase the focus on AGWA’s Indigenous collection was launched in 2017, and a new dedicated permanent Indigenous gallery was inaugurated alongside “Plain Speak” a special exhibit for the Perth International Arts Festival.


The Art Gallery's first collection was eclectic.[3] The first collection consisted of Indian and Asian craft work, followed by art created by European Australians and copies of English art.[3] The Aesthetic Movement inspired the collection with its broad definition of art.[3]

Ongoing exhibitions include Indigenous traditional and contemporary art from the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and WA art from the 1820s to 1960s[7] alongside topical displays on key themes drawn from the collection. Desert River Sea is a major project exploring indigenous art. Desert River Sea: Kimberley Art Then and Now is a ground-breaking six-year visual arts initiative developed by the Art Gallery of Western Australia with funding support from the Rio Tinto Community Investment Fund. Its aim is to bridge the cultural and geographic distance between Aboriginal artists of the diverse Kimberley region, the Gallery in Perth and national and international audiences, thereby forging a network of cultural and artistic exchange and understanding. An annual exhibition called "Year 12 Perspectives" celebrated 25 years in 2017 and highlights works from Western Australian Art and Art and Design students, including paintings, prints, digital art, fashion, design, and sculpture.[8]

Recent exhibitions

  • Auguste Rodin (2001)[5]
  • Monet (2001)[5]
  • Max Ernst (2002)[6]
  • Islamic art from Kuwait (2002)[6]
  • Pre-Raphealite paintings and drawings from the Tate Gallery (2003)[6]
  • Italian Renaissance, 17th-century Dutch and 18th- and 19th-century French drawings from the Amsterdams Historisch Museum (2003)[6]
  • Indian contemporary art (2004-2005)[6]
  • Russian art from the early 1900s (2005)[6]
  • Australian ceramics from the 1950s to 1960s (2005-2006)[6]
  • Norman Lindsay etchings (2006-2007)
  • Egyptian art on loan from the Louvre Museum (2007)
  • Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art Triennial (2008)
  • McCubbin: Last Impressions 1907-17 (2009 – 2010)
  • Great Collections of the World – Peggy Guggenheim: A Collection in Venice (2010 – 2011)
  • Patricia Piccinini: Relativity (2010)
  • Princely Treasures: European Masterpieces 1600 – 1800 (2011)
  • Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters (2012)
  • Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World Reimagined (2013)
  • Picturing New York: Photographs from the Museum of Modern Art (2013)
  • Desert River Sea Display (2015)
  • "Unknown Land" Mapping and Imagining Western Australia (2016-2017)
  • Continental Shift (2016 – 2017)
  • Dissenting Voices (2016- 2017)
  • Everyone has a history part one: Plain Speak (2017)
  • The Rise of Sneaker Culture (2017)
  • Heath Ledger: A life in pictures (2017)


  1. "Register of Heritage Places: Art Gallery & Museum Buildings" (PDF). 28 August 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 April 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  2. The Linton Legacy, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
  3. "Register of Heritage Places: Art Gallery Administration Building" (PDF). 24 March 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 April 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  4. "Register of Heritage Places: Art Gallery of Western Australia Complex" (PDF). 9 May 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 April 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  5. "Art Gallery of Western Australia Annual Report 2001-2002" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  6. "Art Gallery of Western Australia Past Exhibitions". Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2008.

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