Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

National Portrait Gallery (Australia)

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Type  Portrait gallery
Curator  Dr Christopher Chapman
Artwork  Edward John Eyre
Director  Angus Trumble
Phone  +61 2 6102 7000
Architect  Richard Johnson
National Portrait Gallery (Australia)
Former name  National Library of Australia, Old Parliament House
Established  May 1998; 18 years ago (1998-05)
Location  King Edward Terrace, Parkes, Australian Capital Territory
Address  King Edward Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600, Australia
Hours  Open today · 10AM–5PMWednesday10AM–5PMThursday10AM–5PMFriday10AM–5PMSaturday10AM–5PMSunday10AM–5PMMonday10AM–5PMTuesday10AM–5PMSuggest an edit
Similar  National Zoo & Aquarium, Questacon, National Gallery of Australia, Mount Ainslie, Lake Burley Griffin

The National Portrait Gallery in Australia is a collection of portraits of prominent Australians that are important in their field of endeavour or whose life sets them apart as an individual of long-term public interest. The collection was established in May 1998, and until 2008 was housed in Old Parliament House and in a nearby gallery on Commonwealth Place. On 4 December 2008, its permanent home opened on King Edward Terrace, Canberra beside the High Court of Australia.



In the early 1900s, the painter Tom Roberts was the first to propose that Australia should have a national portrait gallery, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the possibility began to take shape.

The 1992 exhibition Uncommon Australians – developed by the Gallery’s founding patrons, Gordon and Marilyn Darling – was shown in Canberra and toured to four state galleries, igniting the idea of a national portrait gallery. In 1994, under the management of the National Library of Australia, the Gallery’s first exhibition was launched in Old Parliament House. It was a further four years before the appointment of Andrew Sayers as Director signalled the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery as an institution in its own right, with a board, a budget and a brief to develop its own collection. The opening of displays in the refurbished Parliamentary Library and two adjacent wings of Old Parliament House in 1999 endorsed the Gallery’s status and arrival as an independent institution.

While the spaces of Old Parliament House proved adaptable to the National Portrait Gallery’s programs, its growing profile and collection necessitated the move to a dedicated building. Funding for the $87 million building was provided in the 2005 Federal Budget and Sydney-based architectural firm Johnson Pilton Walker was awarded the job of creating the gallery, with construction commencing in December 2006. The new National Portrait Gallery opened to the public on 4 December 2008.

The building

Won through an open international design competition by Johnson Pilton Walker in 2005, the 14,000 square metres (150,000 sq ft) building provides exhibition space for approximately 500 portraits in a simple configuration of day-lit galleries.

The external form of the building responds to its site by using the building’s geometry to connect with key vistas and alignments around the precinct. A series of five bays, each more than 70 metres (230 ft) long, are arranged perpendicular to the Land Axis referring to Walter Burley Griffin’s early concepts for the National Capital.

National Portrait Gallery is a sequence of spaces leading from the Entrance Court defined by the two large cantilever concrete blades on the eastern side of the building, through the foyer to the gallery spaces. Each gallery receives controlled natural light from translucent glazed clerestory windows and views to the outside.

Previous exhibitions

Some of the temporary exhibitions displayed at the National Portrait Gallery include:


National Portrait Gallery (Australia) Wikipedia

Similar Topics
Lake Burley Griffin
Mount Ainslie
National Gallery of Australia