The home of the country's most valuable art collection has a funding gap of $67 million, after years of neglect from successive governments.
The National Gallery of Australia needs to spend around $87 million on upgrades to its 40-year-old building over the next five years, with only $20 million committed from the Commonwealth government for this purpose.
An independent review of the gallery's assets shows the institution risks "failures and breakdowns" if urgent upgrades aren't carried out on the building, with 27 maintenance projects posing a "very high" or "high" risk, meaning the asset has gone past its replacement date.
The gallery, which houses an art collection worth $6.1 billion, is preparing to mark the Brutalist building's 40th anniversary in October, but may face months-long closures in parts of the gallery in order to complete maintenance works.
The review, by Ventia Property, advises the funding already flagged for building upgrades is "insignificant" in the face of the heritage building's current condition.
"NGA will need to seek an additional $67.557 million over the next five years to fund all asset replacement works," the report says.
It advises the gallery seek a minimum of $50 million to carry out works in the Very High and High risk categories.
It also suggests the gallery "consider shutting part or all of the gallery for a period of time, similar to the National Portrait Gallery project that recently completed a large volume of work in a short period of time".
The National Portrait Gallery was forced to close its 10-year-old, highly awarded building for six months in 2019 to repair major structural problems.
NGA director Nick Mitzvich declined to comment on Monday, as he had yet to brief incoming Federal Arts Minister Tony Burke on the report.
Mr Burke, who was sworn into the role a week ago, has declared an end to "the neglect, the contempt and the sabotage" of the arts on the part of the previous government.
He has also committed to a new National Cultural Policy.
But in the meantime, as he settles into his new role, he will have a pressing $67 million funding hole to contend with at the NGA, among other longstanding shortfalls across the sector.
Parts of the Ventia report have been redacted, but the repairs are believed to include lifts, escalators, electrical systems and air-conditioning.
The building has long been plagued with roof and window leaks, and was the subject of a particularly scathing 2018 report from the Australian National Audit Office, which found the gallery had cash flow problems, diverting government funding for acquiring and maintaining new works to prop up its operating budget.
In June 2020, at the height of the COVID pandemic's first wave in Australia, Mr Mitzevich announced he would have to cut 10 per cent of the gallery's workforce due to the ongoing efficiency dividend that has applied across the cultural institutions sector for decades.
At the time, he maintained the unfortunate timing - after the gallery had been forced to close its doors in the wake of bushfire smoke and then the pandemic - was entwined with its ongoing struggles with rising utility costs, building maintenance, falling interest rates and forced government cutbacks.
Meanwhile, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr pointed out that supporting national cultural institutions, all of which had been contending with efficiency cutbacks for many years, was vital to Canberra's coronavirus recovery plan.
"These institutions collectively bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Canberra each year," he said.
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