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Sydney Modern bursts on art scene with daunting challenges

Visually dazzling, the city's new gallery leans heavily on inclusive sloganizing

An aerial view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architects SANAA. (© Iwan Baan)

SYDNEY -- Sydney knows how to do a celebration, especially when the party has been 10 years in the making. The first glimmer of what Art Gallery of New South Wales' (AGNSW) director, Michael Brand, refers to as "The Sydney Modern Vision" came in March 2013, when the press assembled for a major announcement. Nine years and eight months later, that vision has become a steel, glass and concrete reality known as Sydney Modern.

The first announcement, handled by Brand and then-chair of trustees Steven Lowy, was unusual in that it came without a pledge of funds to launch the project. This would have been unimaginable in most big cities and was especially surprising because that same week the Lowy family had cashed in a trust worth more than 360 million Australian dollars ($243 million). Instead, it was assumed the building would be funded by the government of the state of New South Wales and private donations. The state government was not represented at the press conference.

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