Architectural impression of the new north entrance to the National Portrait Gallery

A new look for the nation’s family album

Across the capital, art galleries and museums have been silent since March, but one will remain closed for a further three years, beyond the COVID lockdown, while it undergoes a major revamp

The National Portrait Gallery, which is one of the world’s finest art galleries and which has been closed since the end of March due the COVID-19 lockdown, is to be dramatically transformed to make it more welcoming and to show more of its wonderful collection of pictures.

Westminster City Council’s planning committee has granted permission and listed building consent for Inspiring People, the NPG’s biggest ever development since the building in St Martin’s Place, London, opened in 1896.

The gallery will have a new entrance and forecourt on the north facade of the gallery, which will create “a more welcoming and generous entrance” and relieve the existing congested entrance. Three windows will be altered to form doorways, leading to a new, open entrance hall.

The project will also present an opportunity to re-display the entire collection, as well as to upgrade the gallery spaces. Set among the gallery’s best-loved paintings will be more works from the NPG’s collection of 250,000 photographs, dating from 1840 to the present day.

The NPG has secured £31.5 of its £35.5m fundraising target. This includes the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has awarded development funding of £900,000, enabling the gallery to apply for a full National Lottery grant of £9.4m, and a £6.5 million grant from the Trustees of the Garfield Weston Foundation towards the creation of a new public wing. All the funds should be in place by autumn this year, with major work expected to begin in summer 2020.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “We are delighted that Westminster City Council have granted planning permission for our Inspiring People project, which represents a major milestone in transforming the National Portrait Gallery in order to truly fulfil our unique role as the nation’s family album.

“This is the most significant development for the gallery since the building opened in 1896. The renewed National Portrait Gallery will allow us to be more welcoming and engaging to all, and enable us to display our collection in ways that will bring to life British history and culture.”

Although the conditions of the lockdown are now gradually being relaxed, the NPG will not be re-opening before June 29, the date it was due to close in preparation for the refurbishment work. The gallery has announced that it will open it doors once again in spring 2023 with the return of the exhibition David Hockney: Drawing from Life.

Read more about about the NPG’s refurbishment plans, Inspiring People

While the gallery is closed you can explore the NPG collection online

Image shows an architectural impression of the new north entrance to the National Portrait Gallery (Photo: Jamie Fobert Architects)

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