Arts and design

Art Gallery of NSW building’s $344m extension finally named more than a year after opening

More than a year after it opened to the public, the $344m gallery and modern extension of the Art Gallery of New South Wales has been named.

The gallery, which has been known as Sydney Modern or the northern building since its opening in December 2022, is named after Naala Badu, which means “seeing water” in the language of the Dharug people. The building overlooks Sydney Harbour.

Meanwhile, the main building of the museum, which was designed by Walter Liberty Vernon and built between 1896 and 1909, is named Naala Nura, which means “land of sight” in Dharug, as facing the Domain parks.

As an institution as a whole, AGNSW will still be known as such.

Guardian Australia previously reported on the delay in officially naming Naala Badu, after political intervention from the former NSW government resulted in a debate over whether the Indian language should be where is it used.

In May 2022, the chair of the Museum’s board of directors, David Gonski, informed former arts minister Ben Franklin that Naala Nura and Naala Badu were in the final stages of being accepted by the board after set up a nominal discussion group with several. Experts in indigenous languages ​​and arts, as well as indigenous elders.

But a month later, Franklin asked the Gujaga Foundation, which represents the indigenous community of La Perouse, too. Then Gujaga came up with the names in the Dharawal language, Nandhi Ngura (the seeing country) and Nandhi Gadhu (the seeing [salt] waters), argued that Dharawal was spoken by the families who lived in the area, including the Gadigal people.

A cancellation of Dharawal’s names was later sent, saying “it is no longer appropriate to proceed with the adoption of Sydney Aboriginal language names … at this time”.

Gujaga Foundation has been contacted for comment on the naming decision.

AGNSW has engaged “extensively” with key Aboriginal and community stakeholders, the museum said on Tuesday, including the National Metropolitan Aboriginal Council, and is supported by the museum’s Indigenous Advisory Group and native workers.

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These new names of our two buildings design their building and its location, in the land of Gadigal. Naala Badu is about the waters around Sydney Harbor that have been supporting communities across the country. Naala Nura embraces the indigenous lands in general and the golden sandstone of the first building of the art collection, carved in the native land,” said the museum.

“As a native Australian for whom English is my second language, I have never had the opportunity to learn my first language, I applaud the gift of a living, breathing language for buildings that are ‘ two of the art center,” said Tony Albert, photographer and gallery curator.

“Aboriginal language has a deep and spiritual connection with the land. We hope that this can be heard by everyone when the building names Naala Badu and Naala Nura are used by the community and visitors to AGNSW,” said the chairperson of the local indigenous advisory group Rachel Piercy.

AGNSW director Michael Brand said the center was “very honoured” to have Aboriginal names on two of its buildings.

“They evoke a strong sense of place – this place of incredible physical beauty with its complex, contested history. We intend to take these names with deep respect,” he said.

Signs will be updated on both buildings on Tuesday to reflect the new names.

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