The Art Gallery, founded on 31 July 1895, was opened by Sir Alexander Onslow. The foundation stone for the Beaufort Street wing of the Museum and Gallery was laid on 24 July 1901 by HRH the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V).
The Art Gallery Act 1959 gave control of the Western Australian Art Gallery to a Board of Trustees appointed by the Governor of Western Australia. This ended a joint institution known collectively as the Public Gallery, Museum and Art Gallery. In 1978 the Gallery was renamed the Art Gallery of Western Australia and a new building, designed by architect Charles Sierakowski, opened on 2 October 1979.
The main gallery is a unique modernist building, designed around 120 degree angles and modular wall lengths of 7, 14 and 21 metres. Its central features are a cast concrete spiral staircase and vistas between and across the nine gallery spaces that use the 120 degree angles to stimulate peripheral vision. The building was inspired by the pavilions and courtyards of the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
The Centenary Galleries
Formerly the Perth Police Courts, the building was restored and opened in 1995 to house historical art, featuring displays of many of the State Art Collection’s 19th and 20th century paintings and decorative arts. Built during the Gold Rush, the building itself reflects a late nineteenth century interpretation of the French Regency style, incorporating a mansard roof, which was unusual in Perth architecture of the period.
Western Australian materials were used extensively during the building's original construction. The façades of this Heritage listed building feature Donnybrook stone; all flooring and interior furnishings highlight the use of local jarrah and locally manufactured stained glass feature panels together with the retained pressed metal ceilings combine to create an ambience of a by-gone era. A court room and its holding cells have been retained, and can be viewed by visitors to the Gallery.