In March 2020, we closed our doors to undergo a major transformation – the biggest since our building opened 127 years ago. We can’t wait to welcome you back in June 2023, to see what we’ve been up to these last few years. 

While we count down the final months until reopening, we’re excited to share with you an update on our Inspiring People redevelopment works as well as the brilliant ways in which our team have been sharing the Collection across the UK and beyond.

An open Gallery space with parquet flooring

The newly refurbished galleries in The Blavatnik Wing, 2022, Photo Nick Chantarasak

We’ll be welcoming you back with (literal) new doors...

This June, you’ll be joining us at the Gallery through a more open and accessible visitor entrance and forecourt on the North Façade of the building. Three windows have been altered to become doors that will lead to a new entrance.

National Portrait Gallery forecourt

National Portrait Gallery forecourt proposal by Jamie Fobert Architects © Forbes Massie.

Take a glimpse below at the installation of the pedestrian bridge that will connect this new entrance and forecourt, named Ross Place.

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There will also be plenty of transformations once you’re inside, with the creation of our new Learning Centre, which will increase our learning spaces from one studio to three. Each studio will also have specialist equipment and breakout spaces, offering a better learning experience for schools, families, young people, community groups and adult learners.

Hear from our Director Dr Nicholas Cullinan and Architect Jamie Fobert on these changes, as well as some discoveries that were made during the construction works.

 

Some of these discoveries influenced our new brand, which reflects both the Gallery’s rich heritage, while also imagining us in new and exciting ways.

 

Birds eye view of a worker fixed a round mosaic with NPG in the middle

Restore London working on the conservation of a Gallery mosaic floor © David Parry

De-installing the Collection – and bringing it back!

Our Inspiring People redevelopment doesn’t just include changes to the building, but also a comprehensive redisplay of the Collection – from the Tudors to now, featuring new portraits alongside some old favourites.

Art Handlers de-install a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Art Handlers de-install a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I © David Parry

When our building closed in 2020, all the portraits on display needed to be taken down and safely packed away before the construction works could begin. This was the largest move the Gallery had undertaken since portraits were evacuated to Buckinghamshire during the Second World War.

Photograph of Gallery staff with an empty frame

Photograph of Gallery staff with the empty frame of Sir George Hayter's portrait 'The House of Commons', after the evacuation of the portraits to Mentmore
© EMPICS

Edward Purvis, Head of Collection Services, described how, “the first step the Gallery took was to undertake an initial conservation assessment of all the 1,000 works on display... In total this took an impressive 240 hours and laid all important foundation work for the de-install.” Hear more from Ed about this de-installation process, and his reflections on doing this during the Covid-19 pandemic, in his blog.

18th Century Galleries

18th Century Galleries

In the last few months, we’ve started the process of bringing the Collection back to the Gallery. We caught back up with Ed to learn more about how our team have been re-hanging the portraits, with Ed describing how the reinstallation of the Collection, along with the exhibitions, was “a serious challenge – nothing on this scale has been done before in the Gallery’s history. A challenge, not just for my teams to meet head on, who are responsible for the physical movement, conservation and installation of the works, but for the whole Gallery.” Read our full interview with Ed over on our blog.

Two employees lift a painting

Reinstallation of works in the galleries © David Parry

Two employees hold a painting with a label on it

While these works were off the Gallery’s walls, it gave us an exciting opportunity for some of the Gallery's most popular portraits to come into the conservation studios for examination and treatment.

Conservators

(l-r) Conservators Polly Saltmarsh, Abby Granville and Alexandra Gent with some of the Kit-cat paintings in the conservation studio.

Watch conservator Polly Saltmarsh share more about the portrait of Katherine Parr:

 

Paintings conservator Alexandra Gent also reveals more about the discoveries made about the portraits of the Kit-cat club, an influential club of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

 

Visiting our Collection during closure

As well as treating our works in the conservation studio, the Collection has also been shared across the UK and the globe as part of national and international tours, and through partnerships with museums, local community groups and schools.

Discover where in the UK our Collection has been so far, including stops at Birmingham, St Andrews, Cornwall and Swansea.

 

Produced by INK

Comments

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Eleanor L'Esperance

18 August 2023, 09:47

I had been awaiting the reopening with baited breath as NPG is one of my favourite galleries. Whilst I can see there is more space for visitors in a brighter and airier building, all the paintings are squashed together with a very un-user-friendly labelling system. I preferred it before and wonder what these last 2 years of hard work have really achieved. I will go a second time and hope to be able to enjoy it more then.

Adrian Scrope

16 August 2023, 10:14

There is a charming figurine of Queen Victoria sensitively carved by a Yoruba craftsman. Accompanying it is this quote. “While carvings like this one may represent expressions of loyalty to the so called ‘Great White Queen’, their existence also testifies to Britain’s colonial presence in Africa.”

What a patronising and unpleasant tone has been used here in stating the obvious. First, ‘so called’ and then ‘Great White Queen’ in inverted commas. An excess of curatorial prejudice perhaps.

Brenda

02 August 2023, 17:28

Was really excited to see the NPG after its restructuring but have to say was quite disappointed.
Love the new entrance ( but the steps are filthy) and great escalator to the top floor but why put two enormous group paintings, back to back at the narrow entrance to the gallery. Made it nearly impossible to view them especially when busy.
We missed seeing all the interesting modern portraits that were in the spacious ground floor gallery and actually everything felt very squashed and ‘narrow’ and a bit airless. The portraits that were on the ground floor( not the exhibition, but the set ones, were large but with little space to stand back and enjoy them.
All in all I was really disappointed. I will come again….. maybe my second visit will please better.

SRweb.in

01 July 2023, 09:21

Amazing painting

Sanjay Joshi

29 May 2023, 17:04

Great to see NPG open again, wonderful to see Drop in Drawing is to be continued on Friday's but please make it later as before Covid when it was 18.30 to 20.30 so people can attend after work.