Te Papa unveils new multi-million dollar art gallery

Te Papa is unveiling its brand new multi-million-dollar art gallery on Friday evening as the museum overhauls its exhibition spaces.

The new Toi Art space showcases some of the 40,000 artworks in the museum's collections.

It's the first time since 1998 that Te Papa has had an overhaul.

Described as a building within a building, our national museum now has a dedicated art gallery.

Te Papa head of art Charlotte Davy said: "It's quite different and people will notice from the moment they walk in the door here that there is art here, and it's front and centre at Te Papa."

The $8.4 million gallery space spans two levels and is part of a major renewal of the exhibitions after 20 years.

"This is a really big period of renewal for Te Papa," said senior art curator Sarah Farrar. "The museum has been open in this building for 20 years, so it's a great time to renew the longer-term exhibitions and we've launched with the art space."

The nearly 4000 square metre space features four areas - two with major retrospective shows, such as Pacific Sisters, and another two showcasing the national art collection.

"We're giving a lot more profile to art and within art, we are talking about ourselves as a Pacific nation," Ms Davy said. "We are positioning ourselves in the Pacific, and really showcasing Pacific and Maori art."

The gallery's also been an opportunity to create something new, including a Michael Parekowhai work, which is still top secret.

"We've also had a really big contemporary component, so working with a lot of contemporary artists to make new work and site-specific work for the gallery," Ms Davy said.

Te Papa's head of art says the space is designed to make art accessible to all New Zealanders, even the kids.

The doors will be opened to the public on Saturday.