1881

The National Gallery of South Australia is opened by their Royal Highnesses Prince Albert Victor and Prince George Frederick (later King George V), in what is now the Mortlock Library in North Terrace, Adelaide.

1882

Louis Tannert is appointed Honorary Curator and Master of the School of Painting.

1884

Legislation reconstitutes the South Australian Institute as the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia, with responsibility also for the Schools of Painting and Design.

1889

The Art Gallery relocates to three rooms in the Jubilee Exhibition Building (since demolished) on North Terrace.

1890

Robert Kay is appointed Honorary Curator following the resignation of Louis Tannert.

1892

Harry Pelling Gill is appointed Honorary Curator.

1897

Sir Thomas Elder dies, leaving a bequest of £25,000 to the Gallery to be spent ‘in the purchase of pictures only’. This is the first major bequest to an Australian art gallery. The Elder Bequest necessitates ‘the erection without delay of a safe and suitable Art Gallery building’. This is now the Elder Wing of the current Gallery.

1899

The Gallery acquires the now-iconic painting A Break away! by Tom Roberts.

1900

The new Art Gallery is opened by the Governor, Lord Tennyson.

1903

The Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery receives a bequest of £65,000 from Dr Morgan Thomas, from which the Gallery receives £16,500. This sum ‘induced the Board to extend the scope of their art department with the view of promoting the knowledge of the technical arts.’

1907

Former Board member David Murray bequeaths his large collection of prints and £3000 for the establishment of a Print Room.

1915

The Governor, Sir Henry Galway, opens the East Wing of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery (now part of the South Australian Museum), which is used to display ceramics, glass, metalwork, furniture, prints, drawings, and South Australian historical pictures and relics, archaeological specimens and weapons.

1916

Sir Samuel Way dies, leaving a large bequest of paintings and objects, which substantially increases the Asian decorative arts collection in particular.

1918

Gustave Barnes is appointed Curator.

1922

Henry van Raalte is appointed Curator.

1926

Leslie Wilkie is appointed Curator.

1934

Wilkie becomes the Art Gallery’s first Director when his title changes from Curator.

1935

A gift of £10,000 is received from Alexander Melrose towards an extension of the Art Gallery, to celebrate the state’s centenary in 1936. The Government matches the sum.

Louis Frederick McCubbin is appointed as Director, commencing from May 1936, after the death of Wilkie.

1937

The Art Gallery extension, comprising the Melrose Wing, a new façade and entrance vestibule, is opened by the Governor, Sir Winston Dugan. The extension enables the collection displayed in the East Wing of the SA Museum to be transferred to the lower galleries of the Melrose Wing, bringing all art displays under one roof.

1938

A grant from the Carnegie Corporation, New York, funds touring exhibitions to regional South Australia, school classes and art appreciation lectures at the Gallery.

1939

The Art Gallery Act 1939 abolishes the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery and creates three separate institutions, each governed by its own Board.

The first work of art by an Aboriginal artist acquired by an Australian state gallery, Illum-Baura (Haasts Bluff), Central Australia by Albert Namatjira, enters the collection.

The first exhibition of Aboriginal art, Aboriginal bark paintings, is held, showing works lent by the South Australian Museum.

The first edition of Bulletin of the National Gallery of South Australia is published, the first in-gallery magazine in Australia.

1940

The Gallery becomes known as the National Gallery of South Australia.

1947

Albert Richard Ragless leaves a bequest of approximately £10,000 for the purchase of paintings valued at more than £150.

1949

The first Melrose Prize is offered, drawing on a £1000 bequest from Alexander Melrose to the Gallery to establish an art prize.

1950

Louis McCubbin resigns as Director due to ill health.

1951

Robert Campbell is appointed Director.

1953

A.M. Ragless, sister of A.R. Ragless, bequeaths the residue of her estate, valued at £12,000, in trust for the purchase of paintings valued at more than £150.

1954

The estates of Ella Boxall and her father G.A. Boxall (valued at £15,000) are bequeathed to the Gallery, forming the d’Auvergne Boxall Bequest.

1957

The first Maude Vizard-Wholohan Art Prize is held. The prize, run in conjunction with the Royal South Australian Society of Arts, is established as part of the bequest of Vizard-Wholohan, who died in 1950.

1960

The Gallery presents a special exhibition as part of the first Adelaide Festival of Arts, initiating its participation in every Adelaide Festival by holding major exhibitions.

1962

The North Wing, built to accommodate touring exhibitions, is opened by the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford.

1964

Gladys Penfold makes a significant gift of works to the Gallery in memory of her late husband, Frank Penfold Hyland. This includes Old Master paintings, silverware and furniture.

1965

For the first time an Education Officer is seconded from the Education Department to assist the Gallery in providing educational services.

1966

M.J.M Carter, AO makes a gift of cash to the Gallery, beginning decades of benefaction that adds more than 900 objects to the collection, with significant additions to Australian and Asian art.

1967

John Baily is appointed Director.

The Minister of Education approves the change in the Gallery’s name from the National Gallery of South Australia to the Art Gallery of South Australia (although this is not officially changed in the Art Gallery Act until 1975).

1969

The Friends of the Art Gallery of South Australia (later renamed Members) forms.

1972

James and Diana Ramsay donate a work of art to the Gallery, marking the start of a long history of giving.

The Gallery Guide service, initially known as the Docent Service, is established.

The old Ordnance Store building (now the Radford Auditorium), built in 1867, is refurbished and reopens as a Historical Museum for the display of the Gallery’s early South Australian paintings and objects.

1976

David Thomas is appointed Director.

Benefactor Michael Abbott (later Board Chair from 2002 to 2014) gives the first of many hundreds of items. His continuing generosity greatly enhances the Asian collection in particular.

1977

The record-setting Chinese exhibition: a selection of recent archaeological finds of the People’s Republic of China attracts 125,287 visitors, nearly one-sixth of the population of Adelaide, in a 29-day season.

1979

The Gallery reopens following a $3.9 million works program.

1981

The Gallery celebrates its centenary year by establishing a Foundation to raise funds. The centenary is also marked by the acquisition of A Holiday at Mentone by Charles Conder.

1983

Mary Corich is appointed Manager after the departure of David Thomas as Director.

1984

Murray Edmonds is appointed Acting Director.

In October, Daniel Thomas is appointed Director.

1988

The Historical Museum is repurposed as the Gallery’s Library and offices for the Foundation and the Education Service.

1990

Ron Radford is appointed Director.

The Gallery presents the inaugural Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art as part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts.

1996

The size of the Gallery doubles with the opening of the West Wing. The award-winning extension, built with support from Santos, includes temporary exhibition spaces, a restaurant, a shop, a function room, a members’ lounge, offices, a new print room and a library. The old library building becomes the Auditorium.

The Gallery purchases from benefactor William Bowmore the largest collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures in the Southern Hemisphere.

2001

The Gallery establishes the Graduate Art History Program in collaboration with the University of Adelaide.

The Collectors’ Club is launched by the Foundation.

2002

Monthly family drop-in days begin.

2003

The Contemporary Collectors group of benefactors is formed to raise funds to buy contemporary art.

The Gallery purchases the most expensive single painting in its history, The coronation of the Virgin with Saints Luke, Dominic and John the Evangelist by Bartolomeo Passerotti, with funds donated by Mary Overton.

2005

Christopher Menz is appointed Director.

The Gallery opens the first dedicated Islamic gallery in an Australian public institution, showcasing Islamic art from the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Departure, a regular series of after-hours events for young adults, begins.

2009

Start, the educational program for children, is launched with support from The Balnaves Foundation.

2010

Nick Mitzevich is appointed Director.

2011

The Elder Wing of Australian Art reopens after an extensive refurbishment.

2013

The Melrose Wing reopens after refurbishment and a radical non-chronological rehang, supported by the Government of South Australia and Thyne Reid Foundation.

The Studio, a space for art education and audience engagement funded by the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation, is launched to coincide with the exhibition Turner from the Tate: The making of a master.

The Gallery undertakes its largest benefaction campaign, to secure an Impressionist masterwork, Prairie à Éragny by Camille Pissarro. Benefactor and Foundation Chair Andrew Gwinnett leads the appeal.

The Biennial Ambassadors Program for interstate donors is initiated.

2014

After-hours program First Fridays begins with the support of Santos, allowing the Gallery to stay open until 9pm on the first Friday of every month.

2015

The first TARNANTHI: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art is held, supported by a partnership with BHP.

2016

Neo, a program of arts activities for teens, is launched with support from The Balnaves Foundation.

2017

The inaugural Ramsay Art Prize is held, supported in perpetuity by the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation. At the time, the $100,000 acquisitive prize is the nation’s richest prize for Australian contemporary artists under 40.

2018

Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay sets a new attendance record of 159,442 visitors for a ticketed exhibition.

Rhana Devenport ONZM is appointed Director.

The Elder Wing of Australian Art reopens following a radical rehang, supported by the Neilson Foundation and the Foundation.

The Gallery is rebranded with a new visual identity and website.