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National Gallery announces plans for year-long festival to celebrate bicentenary

The National Gallery is celebrating its bicentenary in 2024 with a range of programmes and events, taking place across the UK (The National Gallery, London/PA)
The National Gallery is celebrating its bicentenary in 2024 with a range of programmes and events, taking place across the UK (The National Gallery, London/PA)

The National Gallery has announced plans to celebrate 200 years with a year-long festival of “art, creativity and imagination”.

The Trafalgar Square art gallery was founded in 1824 and houses a collection of more than 2,300 paintings dating from the 13th to 20th centuries.

On May 10 2024 the National Gallery will celebrate its bicentenary and will commemorate the occasion with NG200 – an extensive programme of events and exhibitions.

The celebrations will extend across the UK and beyond, with simultaneous exhibitions opening at galleries across the nation and a variety of online and virtual events taking place across the world.

Arts funding
The National Gallery will celebrate 200 years in 2024 (Ian West/PA)

As part of NG200, which will focus on “bringing people and paintings together”, 12 simultaneous exhibitions will open on May 10 2024, at 12 museums and galleries across the four nations of the UK. Each exhibition will be centred around a “national treasure”.

More than half the UK population will be within an hour’s journey of a National Gallery masterpiece, according to the gallery.

The NG200 art road trip will also see two travelling art studios touring the UK throughout 2024, bringing National Gallery workshops and learning activities to 200 communities who may otherwise not have access to them.

On a global scale, the NG200 will also see a collaboration between 200 social media creators from across the UK to help celebrate the gallery’s bicentenary.

The programme will give access to the gallery’s works, with NG200: 200 paintings for 200 years, opening the door to the entire history of 200 paintings, which will be digitally available.

The National Gallery building in London’s Trafalgar Square will host a range of in-person events as part of the celebrations.

Summer on the square will see a festival in Trafalgar Square, programmed with and for children, young people and their families.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, painted in 1888, is one of the National Gallery’s most recognisable works (The National Gallery, London/PA)

There will also be a Van Gogh exhibition showcasing some of the artist’s most well-loved and influential works, in addition to paintings from private collections, which have never been seen in public.

The exhibition comes exactly 100 years after the National Gallery acquired Van Gogh’s Chair and Sunflowers – both of which were painted in 1888.

The gallery building will undergo a number of modifications, with a transformation of the Sainsbury Wing entrance and the public realm, along with a new Members’ House and a new Research Centre, in an effort to provide a more inspiring and sustainable experience for the gallery’s visitors.

The main event of the NG200 celebrations will involve a redisplay of the entire National Gallery collection, which will be visitor-focused with a new emphasis on thematic displays and “artistic conversations”.

The total cost of NG200 is £95 million and the National Gallery has confirmed it already has commitments of £50 million from several of the gallery’s leading supporters and trusts.

The director of the National Gallery, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, said: “The National Gallery is the nation’s gallery, and we are committed to the belief in the transformative nature of art and it being a vital resource for learning, enjoyment and wellbeing.

“While our physical presence is in London, our audiences are drawn from all over the country – and all over the world.

“The NG200 project will celebrate the gallery’s bicentenary, combining inspirational and diverse country-wide programming with plans for a suite of capital projects.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries added: “The National Gallery is one of the world’s most important cultural institutions and central to Britain’s artistic heritage.

“I’m delighted the museum, which is publicly funded, will mark this momentous occasion by sharing some of its finest works with communities across the UK so people can see the brilliant collection on their doorsteps.”

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