The Federal Minister for the Arts Simon Crean has marked the start of construction on the Gateway@COFA project.

The Minister joined leading members of the arts and design communities at an event held at the College of Fine Arts (COFA) campus in Paddington, Sydney.

The $58 million-dollar redevelopment of the COFA campus is due for completion in late 2012.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell was among those who attended the launch, along with Gene and Brian Sherman, who have donated $2 million to the main galleries and entered into an exhibition partnership with COFA. The guests were welcomed by UNSW Chancellor David Gonski.

At the launch, it was announced that wine writer Huon Hooke will donate $250,000 to the project from the estate of renowned sculptor and COFA alumna Bronwyn Oliver. A sculpture studio will be named in her honour.

Gateway@COFA is a redevelopment of COFA's campus that will transform art, design and media education in Australia. It will include a major new gallery facing Oxford St, giving Sydney its first experimental art, design and media gallery.

Dean of COFA, Professor Ian Howard, said that reorienting the campus onto Oxford St is in line with the City of Sydney Oxford Street Cultural Quarter Plan, encouraging further engagement with the wider community.

"The redevelopment will involve state of the art equipment and facilities, which will provide a world class educational experience for students and make a major contribution to the cultural economy of Australia," he said.

The new gallery will house three exhibition spaces, including the Sherman Family and Waterlow galleries. The latter is in memory of Nick Waterlow, former curator of COFA's Ivan Dougherty Gallery, who died in 2009.

At the launch Gene Sherman announced that the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) will stop holding exhibitions in their current location in 2013.

COFA curatorial staff will initiate the exhibition program in the new galleries, aside from two shows each year which will be funded and curated by SCAF as part of a five-year venture.

The development is primarily funded through a $48 million grant through the Federal Government's Education Investment Fund. A campaign is underway to raise further funds to meet the costs of the redevelopment. Another $5.75 million is needed to complete the building works.

Hindmarsh is undertaking construction of the Architectus-designed development.

Media contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW media, 0422 934 024