Premier Daniel Andrews is depending on philanthropists to fund the majority of the $1 billion project to build Australia’s “biggest and best” modern art gallery in Melbourne.
Mr Andrews said the new gallery will be triple the size of Tasmania’s famous MONA and solidify Melbourne’s reputation as the nation’s cultural capital.
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Contemporary will be built at the Carlton and United Breweries Southbank building, which the government recently bought for $95 million.
The project has been kickstarted with $208 million from the state government and Mr Andrews is hoping arts-loving philanthropists will help to fund it.
“I think that very substantial amounts of money will be able to be sourced from very generous Victorians,” the premier said.
He added there was “significant potential” for partnership with the federal government.
“It will be Australia’s biggest and best contemporary art gallery.”
“This is a special project.”
Opposition arts and culture spokeswoman Heidi Victoria admitted there was strong arts philanthropy in Melbourne. But she said the budget should have been planned first.
“It’s just not fair to say, ‘We’ll do this, but we’ll get someone else to bankroll it,” Ms Victoria told reporters on Sunday.
“To have the government say they think it’s going to cost a certain amount of money, and they don’t have a timeframe for us, I think is a little bit out there on the never never.”
NGV Contemporary is the centrepiece of an arts precinct redevelopment that will create about 10,000 jobs during construction.
New bars and cafes will be established along the Southbank arts precinct, which already includes the NGV and the Arts Centre Melbourne.
The revamp will open up 18,000 square metres of new and renewed public space and provide an easy pathway from St Kilda Road to the Yarra River.
Mr Andrews said Victoria’s creative industries are responsible for about a quarter of a million jobs so they need to be supported.
“Those livelihoods are pegged against visitors coming here and enjoying what is an outstanding offer but one that has to be better,” Mr Andrews said.
Under the project, the Arts Centre will also be upgraded while 1 City Road will become a creative hub, home to the Australian Performing Arts Gallery and an expanded Australian Music Vault.
“We have many fantastic facilities here but some of them are showing their age,” Mr Andrews said.
“We won’t retain our title as the nation’s cultural capital, and one of the great cultural cities of the world, if we rest on our laurels.”
NGV Contemporary will be about three times the size of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, the premier said.
Architects will soon be appointed and the government is hoping construction will begin within 18 months and be completed by the mid-2020s.