AGWA is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of its Brutalist gallery building with AGWA 40, a five-month season of exhibitions and events.

The AGWA 40 celebrations begins with Perth Brutal: Dreaming in Concrete, a free exhibition exploring the development and design of the building. Opened on October 2 1979 by then-Premier Charles Court to mark the 150th anniversary of WA’s foundation, the new Art Gallery of WA building was a dramatic example of late Brutalist architecture designed by Polish born Charles Sierakowski.

“The building was a very brave way of marking the State’s 150th anniversary,” says Colin Walker, acting AGWA director, of the new gallery building’s 1979 opening. “Time has proved it to be a highly functional and timeless gallery as well as popular version of Brutalism, an architectural movement which otherwise had a mixed reception in the following decades.”

Using a hexagonal plan, Sierakowski’s design changed the way the gallery exhibited works. With 3500 square metres of display space, the building was designed around 120-degree angles that created plenty of unusual vistas.

Prior to this, the gallery was part of a joint institution known collectively as the Public Gallery, Museum and Art Gallery. According to Melissa Harpley, AGWA curator of 19th Century Art, the opening of the new space in 1979 reignited Perth’s appreciation for art.

“The radical new layout, with no 90-degree angles in the exhibition spaces, continues to provide a wonderful canvas for curators to work with,” says Harpley. “The emphasis really is about transforming the viewing experience and the flow of movement through interconnected gallery spaces.”

Perth Brutal: Dreaming in Concrete tracks the building’s two-decade-long development period and includes plans, drawings and images from influential Australian architectural photographer Fritz Kos.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an eponymous publication ($32.95) and supported by additional events including a symposium on October 2 (tickets $15). As part of the gallery building’s 40th birthday celebrations, That Seventies Feeling...the Late Modern - an exhibition showcasing works from the 70s – opens on December 7.


Perth Brutal: Dreaming in Concrete runs at AGWA from September 21 to February 17 2020. Entry is free.


artgallery.wa.gov.au