Inspiring People will transform the National Portrait Gallery. Designed by Jamie Fobert Architects and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project comprises a comprehensive re-display of the Collection, combined with a significant refurbishment of the building, the creation of new public spaces, a more welcoming visitor entrance and public forecourt, and a new state of the art Learning Centre. Through this project we will deepen the understanding and enjoyment of our remarkable Collection, sharing it with the widest and most diverse audience possible.
In order to complete the project efficiently and to safeguard visitors, members of staff and the Collection, the Gallery in St Martin’s Place will temporarily close to the public from 29 June 2020 until spring 2023, while essential building works take place.
During this time, we will continue to share our Collection with the nation as we embark on an ambitious programme of activities which will see hundreds of works travel across the UK through a series of partnerships and collaborations.
Creating a New Entrance
The proposed new entrance and forecourt on the North Façade of the Gallery will create a more welcoming and generous entrance and relieve the existing congested visitor access. Three windows will be altered to form doorways leading to a new, open entrance hall, which will link with the Ondaatje Wing Main Hall and better connect the building. The proposed forecourt is designed to be a high quality civic space for both the public and Gallery visitors. Drawing on the history of the building, the forecourt floor design features a contemporary interpretation of the ‘fan pattern’ which runs through the Gallery’s original mosaic floors, creating continuity between the old and the new.
Redisplaying our Collection
The project provides the unique opportunity to re-display the entire Collection as well as upgrade the gallery spaces, while celebrating the existing architecture and decorative features. Maintaining a chronological approach, this comprehensive top-to-bottom re-hang will display works that are relevant to a wider range of audiences and present missing or hidden stories from British history. Set amongst the Gallery’s best-loved paintings will be more works from our collection of 250,000 photographs, ranging from 1840 to the present day.
Reopening the East Wing
The East Wing of the Gallery, part of the original 1896 building, will be reopened to the public. This includes converting what is currently office space back into stunning top-lit galleries on the first floor. The ground floor and basement levels will be refurbished, providing a flexible gallery and social space with its own dedicated entrance and the extension of our brick vaulted Portrait Café.
Establishing a Learning Centre
Inspiring People will transform the quality of education provision at the Gallery through the creation of a much-improved Learning Centre. The new Centre will increase the Gallery’s learning spaces from one studio to three. Each studio will have specialist equipment and breakout space, offering a better learning experience for schools, families, young people, community groups and adult learners.
When will the Gallery close?
In order to complete the project and ensure that staff, visitors and the Collection are not put at risk, the Gallery in St Martin’s Place London will temporarily close to the public from 29 June 2020 to spring 2023 while building works take place. The Gallery has been closed from the 18 March due to the current Coronavirus pandemic. We had hoped to be able to re-open to visitors before our scheduled closure, but in line with UK government guidelines the building in St Martin’s Place will now remain closed throughout June in order to help contain the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of visitors and staff.
How will the Gallery change?
The project will see a transformed National Portrait Gallery with a comprehensive re-display of the Gallery’s Collection from the Tudors to now, combined with a significant refurbishment of the building, the creation of a new public spaces, a more welcoming visitor entrance and public forecourt and a new state of the art Learning Centre.
Why are you doing this now?
Some of the Gallery’s permanent galleries have not been renewed for 25 years and the Learning studio facilities have not been updated since 1992. Previous refurbishments and extensions have been incremental making parts of the building difficult to navigate and there has been wear and tear to visitor facilities over the years.
The Gallery recognises that it needs to offer visitors an experience that reflects the quality of the Collection and its national status. Revitalising the building, updating the galleries and extending our national programme will provide us with the opportunity to connect with new and existing visitors and ensure the Gallery remains relevant to all our audiences in the 21st Century.
What will happen to the Collection when the Gallery is closed?
During the closure period, key works from the Gallery’s Collection will remain on public display through a series of nationwide collaborations including partnerships with The National Trust, The National Gallery, Royal Museums Greenwich, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Coventry City of Culture (Herbert Art Gallery & Museum), York Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum, Bath, Museums Liverpool, the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Derby Museum and Art Gallery, The Yorkshire Museum and Aston Hall in Birmingham.
Partnerships with communities and schools across the UK, drawing on the Gallery’s Collection, will include Faces and Places - a new schools outreach programme in seven London boroughs accompanied by displays in nearby schools, libraries, arts centres and museums; Citizen UK - a project working with local heritage and community partners in London and Wolverhampton to explore stories of migration and movement within the UK; and People Powered – a series of exhibitions created with partners in London and Teesside, uncovering the experiences of communities involved in creating international and world class exports, such as steel in Middlesbrough or football in Wembley.
The Gallery will also continue to grow its international programme. Tudors to Windsors will tour to the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo from October 2020 – January 2021 in partnership with Fuji TV; and Love Stories, an exhibition from the Gallery’s Collection, which explores the synergy between portraiture, love and relationships since the 1600s, will travel to venues in the United States from late 2021.
The public can explore the Gallery’s Collection online at npg.org.uk and search over 215,000 images, 150,000 of which are illustrated.
The Heinz Archive and Library is currently closed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, but it will re-open once it is safe to do so and will remain open throughout the building project. Accessible by appointment to visitors who are interested in any aspect of British portraiture or the history of the Gallery. Find out more at www.npg.org.uk/research/archive
When will the Gallery reopen?
The Gallery is due to reopen in spring 2023
Will the building be unrecognisable when it reopens?
No. The project will include a new entrance and forecourt on the North Façade near Leicester Square, significant refurbishment of the building and a comprehensive redisplay of the Collections. The transformation will enhance the Gallery, restoring historic features while preserving the unique character of the listed building.
What will happen to my Membership?
Members will continue to receive invitations to events, including curator talks and Archive tours; 10% discount from our online shop; supporters’ magazine three times a year and a monthly enewsletter; access to selected exhibitions and private views at partner organisations; special discounts at partner restaurants and retailers. For as long as we are required to comply with social distancing rules, some of these benefits might be subject to limitations but we will continue to provide opportunities to engage with the Collection digitally in the meantime.
We are also extending all Memberships by three months to allow Members to enjoy benefits and exclusive access for longer. Members renewing in 2020 will receive three years for the price of one with an additional three months added to their renewed membership so they can get access to re-opening events.
We hope that Members will continue to support the Gallery at this important moment in its history. If you have any queries please contact the Membership Team on [email protected]
Will the Archive and Library still be open?
The Heinz Archive and Library is currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it will re-open once it is safe to do so and will remain open throughout the building project. Accessible by appointment to visitors who are interested in any aspect of British portraiture or the history of the Gallery. Find out more at www.npg.org.uk/research/archive
Will the BP Portrait Award and Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize still run?
Now closure has been confirmed the Gallery is considering options for the annual portrait competitions. Please sign up to our e-newsletter for updates.
Will the schools programme still run?
The schools programme will cease onsite until the Gallery reopens in spring 2023. The transformed building will have a new Learning Centre with greatly enhanced facilities and access, including studios and breakout spaces and a dedicated lunchroom and cloakroom. This transformation will enable a revitalised and vibrant learning offer for schools, which will benefit both formal and informal learners on-site.
During closure, the Gallery will run a series of partnerships with communities and schools across the UK, drawing on the Collection, including Faces and Places - a new schools outreach programme in seven London boroughs accompanied by displays in nearby schools, libraries, arts centres and museums; Citizen UK - a project working with local heritage and community partners in London and Wolverhampton to explore stories of migration and movement within the UK; and People Powered – a series of exhibitions created with partners in London and Teesside, uncovering the experiences of communities involved in creating international and world class exports, such as steel in Middlesbrough or football in Wembley. To find out more contact [email protected]k
Will the Portrait Restaurant and Portrait Café remain open?
No, both the Portrait Restaurant and Portrait Café will close from 29 June 2020. The transformed building will include a revitalized catering offer with a new flexible gallery and social space in the East Wing, an extension to our brick vaulted Portrait Café and the refurbishment of the Portrait Restaurant.
Will the Gallery shops remain open?
The Gallery’s onsite shops will close. However, the online shop will continue to operate throughout the closure period selling a wide range of unique prints, gifts and books www.npg.org.uk/shop
How much is the project costing?
The total cost of the project is £35.5m.
Who is funding the project?
The Gallery has now secured £32.7m of its £35.5m fundraising target. This includes the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s support of £9.4m and a £6.5m million grant from the Trustees of the Garfield Weston Foundation towards the creation of a new public wing. The rest has and will be raised through individual and trust and foundation support, and our public fundraising campaign.
Who are the architects and designers?
Jamie Fobert Architects were appointed in 2018 to lead the transformation with a multidisciplinary design team - Heritage Architect, Purcell, M&E Engineer, Max Fordham and Structural Engineer, Price & Myers.
How can I support the project?
The Gallery has launched the Make History campaign to support the fundraising efforts. Members of the public can support the appeal in several ways including by helping to fund new mosaics, which will form part of Jamie Fobert's design or adopting one of 18 stone busts on the exterior of the building.
Find out more and donate to the fundraising campaign
Where can I find out more information about the project?
Please bookmark this page or sign up to our free e-newsletter for updates
Why does the Gallery have to close for the period from June 2020 to spring 2023?
This is the biggest development since the Gallery opened in 1896 and the first time in which the building as a whole is being considered. The work involved extends into all areas of the building and its services. The scale and complexity of the Inspiring People project on a Grade 1 listed building means that complete closure is the most time efficient and cost effective way to complete the project and, more importantly, to ensure visitors, members of staff and the Collection are not put at risk.
Will the public programme still run?
The public programme of events will finish onsite until the Gallery reopens in spring 2023. The transformed building will have a new Learning Centre with greatly enhanced facilities and access, including studios and breakout spaces. This transformation will enable a revitalised and extensive public programme for all audiences.
During the closure period, we will continue to find ways to make our Collection available to as many people as possible, creating new and engaging content online, including a new film of our galleries, and sharing works across the UK through an innovative programme of partnerships and collaborations.