The single biggest expansion since the founding of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in 1959 is set to open this weekend and includes a shrine to Salvador Dali and his painting Santiago el Grande.

The 14,000-square-foot expansion adds galleries, a side-street café, which will be operated by Chess Piece Pâtisserie, a Bruno Bobak artist-in-residence space, and an RBC Learning Centre.

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Bernard Riordon calls this the 'shrine' Salvador Dali's Santiago el Grande. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

The art gallery's new wing brings light through two expansive windows, and light hardwood floors glisten from the sunlight pouring over them.

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The expansion includes a refurbished section of the gallery, with added walls and a fresh coat of paint. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

The St. John River can be seen from either window, and in a space inset from one wall, looking quite small at first, hangs the Salvador Dali painting. 

A long time coming

Bernard Riordon, the interim director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, said the expansion was a long time coming.

The biggest obstacle has been securing funding, but the gallery raised enough to finish a part of the expansion.

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Bernard Riordon, the interim director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, hopes the expansion will inspire more conversation about about art and culture. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

The project had a funding goal of $30.5 million when the expansion plans were unveiled in May 2015. It was able to raise $27 million.

A third phase of the expansion, a space dedicated to Indigenous art, has not been built.

In the new space, there is the Elizabeth A. Currie Gallery on the Green, thanks to a contribution of more than $2 million from Elizabeth and Richard Currie.

The Jean E. Irving River Gallery was added thanks to a $3.5 million contribution from the Irving family.  

Both will host new exhibitions for the opening.

Two other gallery spaces were refurbished and painted. 

The federal government committed $1.5 million to the project, the provincial government $5 million and the City of Fredericton $500,000. 

Riordon said the challenge was to create a space that would encourage more conversation about art and culture in Fredericton.

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Light can cascade from two new windows at the gallery, but a blind will shield paintings from too much sunlight. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

"It's all about bringing art and people together and achieving our vision, which is enriching life through art," he said.

More art on display

The new parts of the Beaverbrook gallery will allow for more works to be exhibited. Pieces that had been moved into storage have been brought out for the opening.

It will also allow the gallery to host more travelling exhibitions.

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The old entrance will still serve as the main entrance, but visitors can reach the café by the lower level. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC )

Indigenous artist Tim Hogan will be the first to use the Bruno Bobak artist-in-residence space. And much of his art is on display in that room.

The expansion opens to the public this weekend.