Luminaries of the arts world, including bush poet Banjo Patterson, author Patrick White, opera-singer Dame Joan Sutherland and visual artists Charles Blackman, Margaret Olley and Russell Drysdale, have all called the Woollahra local government area home. And from early 2021, a new artistic institution will make itself at home in the suburb: the Woollahra Gallery at Redleaf.

The new gallery will be housed within the 122-year-old St Brigid’s building, which was the Double Bay Library until 2016, and before that the headquarters for the Royal Commission on Espionage. The heritage-listed building overlooks Sydney Harbour, and is set among the sprawling Blackburn Gardens.

Leading the new gallery will be Sebastian Goldspink, who was recently announced as curator for the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art and was founder and director of artist-run initiative Alaska Projects, which has been in hibernation since December, 2019.

“The gallery program will build on Woollahra Council’s numerous existing art initiatives and expand on its commitment to art and culture,” Goldspink tells Broadsheet. “We are interested in a diverse range of exhibitions, from emerging to more established artists.”

The gallery will have a yearly exhibition calendar, with the building currently undergoing minor changes to create several exhibition spaces. Built in 1897, the building will have the capacity to host up to four solo or group exhibitions at once, or be opened up for larger exhibitions.

Space will be made for digital and new media art practice, while the bottom half of the building will be a cultural hub for workshops, talks and artistic programs. It will also be the new home for the renowned Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize and the Woollahra Artist in Residence program, which offers rent-free non-residential studios for artists to work in.

“The building is a beautiful heritage home on the shores of Sydney Harbour, and while it will look different internally to what it did when it was a library, there will be no significant
 modifications,” says Goldspink. The refurbishment will uncover some of the original heritage features, while a glass elevator will be added to the building’s exterior for improve accessibility.

“Within the walls of the gallery, the ambition is to create a truly unique program that honours the dynamic nature of the area,” says Goldspink. “A place for locals and visitors alike with a focus on creating a warm and welcoming environment.”

Woollahra Gallery at Redleaf is slated to open in early 2021.