A rendering of the new art gallery on the Halifax waterfront
A rendering of the winning design concept for the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, by KPMB Architects with Omar Gandhi Architect, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman, Public Work and Transsolar. The art gallery project is now on indefinite hold. Credit: Contributed

The new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia planned for the Halifax waterfront is now on hold indefinitely. The announcement was made in a news release on Wednesday afternoon.

“We value the arts and want to make sure there is a home for art to be shared and displayed in our province,” Premier Tim Houston said in the release. “But now is not the time.”

The project, which was expected to break ground this year, was originally estimated to cost $137 million. According to the government, “a recent independent estimate projected a cost increase of at least $25 million, most likely significantly more, due to rising inflation and increased construction costs.”

The province was to contribute $70 million to the project with the federal government contributing $30 million and the municipal government $7 million. The Halifax Regional Municipality pledged to contribute $7 million.

In November 2020, the province announced that KPMB Architects with Omar Gandhi Architect, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman, Public Work and Transsolar as winners of the international competition to design the new gallery.

The Donald R. Sobey Foundation and The Sobey Foundation pledged $10 million to the new gallery.

The Halifax Examiner asked AGNS for comment on the announcement and received this statement from Grant Machum, acting chair or the board of governors:

We are disappointed by the news today but appreciate that rising construction costs and the prioritization of healthcare infrastructure is forcing the province to reprioritize.We strongly believe that a new Gallery is a key piece of the arts and culture sector in the province, a large part of what attracts people to Nova Scotia and contributes to the provincial economy. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is a space for community that supports wellness, education, and growth through the visual arts. The new building and our programming is intended to work towards reconciliation and the development of stronger relationships with communities across the province. I have been personally assured by Premier Houston that his government remains committed to a new gallery but that this was just not the right time. We will continue to work with the province and our Capital Campaign Council to bring this important project back online.  

With files from Jennifer Henderson. More to come. 

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Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. There will always be other needs. Museums are inevitably at the bottom of everyone’s priorities. The knee-jerk reaction when museums need space is to shift them into an old post office or other government teardown with no possibility of making the place safe for priceless collections – which require security, climate control, collections management space and indirect lighting, among other things. Nova Scotians deserve an art museum that showcases our art heritage, educates our children and attracts visitation. Instead, we build hockey arenas, casinos and convention centres. Disappointing.

  2. Makes sense. Lovely building, but this would be a luxury, not a necessity. So many other needs: schools, hospitals, public housing, transit, parks, etc.

  3. Great news. Previous government refused 2 requests from the board of Northwood to end 3 people in a room..