The collection of the gallery has been formed over a period of 130 years. The collection’s largest category includes some 19,000 pieces of Australian art. However, it extends to 7,000 pieces of European / Western art, over 2,000 pieces of Australian indigenous art, 5,000 pieces of Asian and Pacific art, 5,400 photographs and around 5,000 pieces of contemporary art.
In addition to its permanent displays, the gallery features special exhibitions of local and international artists and provides touring exhibitions to the regions of New South Wales.
The gallery began from efforts of the citizens of Sydney in the 1870s to promote the fine arts and initially started out as a series of exhibitions but formed as a gallery in 1879 as a part of the Sydney International Exhibition that occurred in that year. It was officially named the Art Gallery of NSW in 1992.
The front of the current gallery building was completed in 1906 and additional galleries and extensions have been added right up to the early 2000s.