What does a landlocked museum do when thirty-five million dollars worth of contemporary art, much of it larger than a bread box, falls into its lap? Such was the happy conundrum of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which has just unveiled the John Kaldor Family Collection to the public. If I call the Gallery’s architectural solution the institutional equivalent of refurbing the basement of a Boston three decker to house returning in-laws, then I mean that as high praise of the Gallery’s willingness to make the most of what they have. The AGNSW’s situation, surrounded by inviolable parkland and very much heritage listed, has required an economical use of space in its subsequent expansions, which trade big architectural gestures for a seamless flow between old and new. The Kaldor Collection is now housed in former storage space on the third basement level, now renovated by architect Andrew Andersons, designer of the Bicentennial wing in which it sits, to open up 3300 square meters of new gallery space, essentially an additional floor. Though the Kaldor Collection leaves the Gallery’s appearance unchanged, the sudden materialization of arguably the greatest collection of contemporary art in Australia will certainly change the institution for good.
Last month two remarkable men died, Konrad Oberhuber on September 12 and Nicholas Hlobeczy on the 14th. Since they both exercised a similar beneficent influence on the world through art—and on me personally, I think it fitting to honor them together. They were on the surface quite different. One was a prominent curator and art historian, a specialist in the Italian Renaissance and in the art of drawing; the other was a photographer and poet, vividly familiar and loved by those who knew him and his work.