The NSW government has today announced $244 million in funding to extend the Art Gallery of NSW.

The building’s extension will make better use of space to the north of the gallery, adding an iconic shape to the Sydney landscape opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens, and will allow it to compete with Melbourne and Brisbane for international exhibitions – projected to attract two million visitors each year.

Gallery director Michael Brand tells Broadsheet the project will have major cultural significance for Sydney. “It fulfils the genuine need of the art museum. It’s a place to celebrate great moments of artists, a space to hold events.”

A dedicated space at entrance level will showcase the “brilliance, beauty, and complexity” of Aboriginal art and culture. Plans for education will also take centre stage in a learning gallery, a hybrid gallery-studio tailored to school groups, which aims to enrich Australian arts education. The plans for the new space echo the gallery’s interest in “the relationship between the new and the traditional”.

Tokyo-based, Prizker Prize-winning architectural firm SANAA will raise the roof to allow for a variety of modern and contemporary art, alongside creating more room for the pre-existing collection, valued at $1.3 billion. The design will also ensure the artistic reverence of the building. “It’s a beautiful concept that respects the site and follows the topography of the land,” says Brand.

In addition to government funds, the gallery will launch a capital campaign later this year to raise $100 million in philanthropic support for the project. So far $70 million has been pledged.

Construction will begin in 2019 and should be completed in time for the 150th anniversary of the gallery in 2021.