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National Portrait Gallery to close its doors for three years

The National Portrait Gallery says it is confident it will find the £2.8 million still needed before building work starts (Andrew Gray/PA)
The National Portrait Gallery says it is confident it will find the £2.8 million still needed before building work starts (Andrew Gray/PA)

The National Portrait Gallery will close for three years – and its art will travel across the UK – as part of a £35.5 million redevelopment project.

The gallery, near Trafalgar Square, wants to create a new main entrance, “bring back to life” its East Wing and create a public forecourt.

It will loan hundreds of works from its collection during the period of closure.

The historic building will close its doors from June 2020 until spring 2023, while “essential building works take place”.

An artist's impression of  new plans to transform the National Portrait Gallery
An artist’s impression of new plans to transform the National Portrait Gallery (Jamie Fobert Architects)

Some 300 portraits a year from the gallery, in St Martin’s Place, will travel across the UK, from Cornwall to Edinburgh.

The transformation will be the biggest since the gallery opened its doors in 1896.

It will also redisplay all of the collection in its 40 galleries, providing a “greater and more diverse selection of portraits”.

The ground floor will feature the gallery’s contemporary images of the likes of David Beckham and activist Malala Yousafzai.

The gallery says it is confident it will find the £2.8 million still needed before building work starts.

Girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai with her portrait at the National Portrait Gallery
Girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai with her portrait at the National Portrait Gallery (Jorge Herrera/National Portrait)

It has already secured £32.7 million of its £35.5 million funding target, including a £9.4 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It also launched a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for the work, with people able to sponsor a piece of mosaic or even adopt one of the busts which adorn the front of the building.

The gallery’s director Nicholas Cullinan said it wanted to hear from organisations so that it can share the collection around the country as widely as possible.

“This is a unique and important chapter in our history as we embark on our journey to deliver a transformed National Portrait Gallery, which will enable us to become more welcoming and engaging to all and fulfil our role as the nation’s family album,” he said.

A plan to transform the building
A plan to transform the building (Jamie Fobert Architects)

“We are delighted to be able to partner with organisations across the UK and internationally to share our Collection to new and existing audiences.”

New regional exhibitions drawn from the National Portrait Gallery Collection will include an exhibition of Tudor portraits curated with the Holburne Museum, Bath, in 2022.

There will also be exhibition projects with National Museums Liverpool, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The exhibitions will then visit other UK venues.

Tudors To Windsors: British Royal Portraits will open at the National Maritime Museum in 2020 and see over 100 works from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection, spanning 500 years of royal portraiture, go on display in one of London’s key royal sites.

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