The S.H. Ervin Gallery is one of Sydney ’s leading public art institutions housed in the historic National Trust Centre on Observatory Hill, The Rocks in Sydney. The Gallery’s exhibition program is designed to explore the richness and diversity of Australian art, both historical and contemporary, and present it in new contexts. The Gallery is renowned for encouraging research and promoting scholarly appraisal of artists from all periods of Australian art history. In addition, the S.H. Ervin Gallery has developed an excellent name for presenting important exhibitions and programs that recognise the valuable contribution made by Australian women artists.
The Gallery building dates from 1856, when it was designed by Henry Robertson as additional classroom accommodation for the expanding Fort Street School (which later became Fort Street Girl’s School in 1916).The school operated on the site until the early 1970s. Around this time, philanthropist and collector, Samuel Henry Ervin offered a bequest for the establishment of a public art gallery committed to the display of Australian art. The National Trust secured the lease of the former Fort Street Girls’ School buildings from the NSW Department of Public Works. Following restoration of the buildings, the S.H. Ervin Gallery was officially opened in May 1978, by NSW Premier Neville Wran, with an exhibition of works by Conrad Martens.
The S.H. Ervin Gallery hosts seven exhibitions each year, including travelling exhibitions, which focus on the work of Australian artists. The Gallery has presented major survey exhibitions of artists including Clarice Beckett, Albert Tucker, Violet Teague, Kathleen O'Connor, Margo Lewers, Jean Bellette, William Robinson and John Coburn. The S.H. Ervin Gallery also hosts popular annual shows including the Salon des Refusés: The alternative Archibald and Wynne Prize, and the Portia Geach Memorial Award for women artists.