From early December, a major light installation will transform the facade of GOMA to celebrate the gallery’s 10th year. The artwork, by internationally renowned artist James Turrell, will become a permanent feature following the birthday celebrations.

Since opening in December 2006, GOMA has established itself as one of the leading modern art galleries in Australia, thanks largely to a series of blockbuster exhibitions (featuring works by Picasso, Warhol and Matisse, among others). But the award-winning gallery itself was never fully finished – at least not in the way lead architects Kerry Clare, Lindsay Clare and James Jones envisioned. Their intention was for the building’s white box facade to be illuminated with artwork.

GOMA director Chris Saines says the milestone occasion provided the perfect opportunity to bring the vision to life. “It needed something like a major anniversary to get everyone galvanised,” he says. “It’s like it’s been in hibernation as a project, and I just thought the tenth anniversary was a really good time to wake it up.”

The installation has been in the works since late 2013 and will stand as the bookend of the gallery’s anniversary celebrations. “This will be a really wonderful concluding note and it will remain for a very, very, very long time,” Saines says. “This is a 50-year plus type of project.”

Turrell is recognised across the world, most notably for his Roden Crater work outside of Flagstaff, Arizona in the US. The GOMA light installation will be just his third work in Australia, after permanent displays at MONA in Hobart and the NGA in Canberra. “He’s undoubtedly the world’s most influential artist who works with the medium of light,” Saines says. “This is a very different kind of Turrell work and I think that will make our building a destination for Turrell lovers.”

The work was commissioned by GOMA with contributions from the Queensland Government as well as private funders and benefactors. Now, it will be taken to the 2017 QAGOMA Foundation Appeal to raise the rest of the required funds. “It’s always the last dollars that are the hardest to get,” Saines says. “I also felt it was important to build a level of community ownership and investment in this work, over and above the private donor investment we have received.”

The plan is to light up the gallery’s eastern and southern facades at dusk each evening. It will make the building visible across the river and around South Bank’s cultural precinct, consolidating GOMA’s significant place in Australia’s arts landscape.