National Gallery of Australia faces $67 million funding shortfall

The Archives Tune review suggests $167 million is needed to protect and upgrade archive and preservation systems.

The NGA Building was constructed between 1979 and 1982. Although the building is very well maintained, the original structure is 40 years old and much of the core is near or near the end of its life.

A review by Ventia Property, commissioned last year, noted that the gallery’s “baseline average investment budget” was $4 million per year over the next five years.

“We found that NGA also needs additional funding to support asset replacement over the next five years of $87,557 million, leaving a deficit of $67,557 million,” it said.

“Asset replacements of several major assets are past due, increasing the risk of portfolio breakdowns and failures. Ventia notes that there are several items to be replaced that have very high compliance or WHS risks associated with further delaying replacement.”

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At the very least, Ventia urged the gallery to prioritize $50 million for 27 “very high” or “high risk” projects, with high risk defined as when the asset has passed its replacement date.

Descriptions of these projects were redacted from the document, but are believed to involve elevators and escalators, wiring, and air conditioners needed to keep exhibits in top condition. Leaks to windows and the roof are persistent.

The report says the NGA may consider closing part or all of the gallery for a period of time, similar to the National Portrait Gallery project which recently completed a large amount of work in a short period of time.

This could give the gallery the opportunity to complete the disruptive works in a quick and efficient manner.

The gallery acknowledged that its most recent strategic asset management plan has identified funding gaps in its capital replacement program.

In 2017, Australis Facilities Management identified 57 “Large Venture Infrastructure Remediation Items”. A failure of the critical “could or could affect people’s safety, damage to the $5 billion physical building or art collection, or the gallery’s ability to remain open”.

The arts secretary’s office said it was unable to comment as no incoming talks with department officials had yet taken place.

When he was sworn in, Tony Burke said he is committed to a national cultural policy.

“Australia’s arts and entertainment industry has a government that cares,” he said. “A government that does not see art as an extra, but as fundamental to our society and national identity.”

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