Of the two budding NT government art galleries, one is making news: The one in Darwin, because construction is under way.
At the opposite end of the Territory, and of government attention, there is no news about the Alice Springs “national” Aboriginal gallery because its senior director, Tracy Puklowski, is not able, not willing, not permitted, not whatever to answer media questions.
The latest news about the $130m Alice project was an exclusive by the Alice Springs News about fundraising and the delay of the project till 2028.
In Darwin the excavation for the Northern Territory Art Gallery (pictured) is now complete and sub-structure works will start this month on the $88m project, employing 192 workers to date.
When asked what stage the so-called National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs has reached Ms Puklowski said: “Put your question in an email.”
And so we emailed at 11.58am yesterday: “Hi Tracy, what stage has the development of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs reached?”
At 3:34pm we received a text from Ms Puklowski: “Please contact TFHC media.”
We did and got a reply from Corporate Communications, Territory Families, Housing and Communities at 8:15am today [20 June 2023]: “We will get back to you before end of day tomorrow.”
That’s tomorrow, Wednesday, two full days after we asked Ms Puklowski a pretty simple question.
The inconclusive website of the Alice Springs project was of little help while NT Government gushed about the Darwin one: “The Territory Labor Government is transforming our CBD into a green, welcoming and interactive destination for locals and visitors to enjoy and explore,” Eva Lawler, Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, announced breathlessly.
“Local Territory company Sitzler is leading the entire $145m project to deliver the Civic and State Square precinct. This includes the Art Gallery, Central Heart, public art and water features.
“The construction of the Northern Territory Art Gallery will be complete in 2025 – three years before the Alice one, by the government’s own admission.
“Other projects within the Civic and State Square development are progressing well with the design tender to redevelop Liberty Square to be awarded in the coming weeks,” says Minister Lawler.
“The Northern Territory Art Gallery will be a state-of-the-art piece of infrastructure featuring large galleries with high ceilings, a grand foyer, dedicated community spaces and so much more.”
A statement about the “national” gallery in Alice Springs by Gerard Vaughan, co-chairman of the “forthcoming” institution’s reference group, is contained in a two minute seven second online video, bereft of detail: “From day one (what day is that going to be?) we can have the greatest masterpieces brought together (which ones and from where?) in one place and have some of the best displays that could ever be put together anywhere right here in Alice Springs.” Louvre, move over!
The “full design services to enable the construction” of the Alice gallery is still a work in progress, at a cost of $7.2m, by the Brisbane office of the international firm BVN Architecture in collaboration with the local firm Susan Dugdale & Associates.
Right now would be a good time to be giving a glimpse of where the project design stands to the people paying for it – the public – before it is locked in, especially since the mishandling of the development so far has become legend.
In fact the tender details process tells part of the story of woe: The tender was started in April 2021, closed in June 2021, and was accepted in March 2022, almost a year later.
(Google our extensive coverage over the six years the project has been in development.)
Update June 21:
A Territory Families, Housing and Communities spokesperson provided the statement below which does not include a completion date. The [Alice Springs] News reported it as 2028.
The National Aboriginal Art Gallery is in the development design phase of the project.
Key project updates include:
- The Northern Territory Government acquisition of the Anzac Oval site and initial consultation with Traditional Owners, community members and key stakeholders is complete.
- Re-zoning of the site is underway, with written submissions about the proposed planning scheme amendment due to close on July 7.
- Design of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery is at 15 per cent completion, with 100 per cent of the design projected by May 2024.
- Geotech investigations of the site will commence shortly.
- A four-week public consultation period on the gallery’s future operations (programs and exhibitions) is also planned.
The total committed funds for the gallery is $149m – $69m from the Northern Territory Government and $80m from the Australian Government.
The National Aboriginal Art Gallery will draw on the wealth of collections of First Nations Art held nationwide and internationally. In addition, the gallery will feature touring exhibitions and exhibitions created in partnership with other galleries, artists, art centres, and communities.
As the project progresses, an exhibition program will be developed that includes a regularly changing program that balances local, regional, and national First Nations stories.
The Anzac Oval site, which was acquired from the Alice Springs Town Council in March 2022, remains the site of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery.
The site will be transformed into an open, family-friendly, community green space with the gallery as the centrepiece. The gallery’s landscaping will also feature Kwatye (water) Play. The development of the gallery is part of a broader plan for the Anzac Hill precinct, which includes a new visitor information centre and purpose-built home for Tourism Central Australia as well as the realignment of Schwarz Crescent.
This article appeared on Alice Springs News on 20 June 2023.