Inspiring People: Transforming our National Portrait Gallery
The new National Portrait Gallery – now open
The Inspiring People project has transformed the National Portrait Gallery. Designed by Jamie Fobert Architects and made possible by major grants from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Ross Foundation. The project comprised a complete re-presentation of the Collection, combined with a significant refurbishment of the building, the creation of public spaces, a more welcoming visitor entrance and public forecourt, and a new Learning Centre.
In order to complete the building project, the Gallery in St Martin’s Place closed to the public in spring 2020. From then Inspiring People saw the Gallery’s most extensive programme of activities, working in partnership with museums, communities and schools across the UK and reaching new audiences locally, regionally and online. Our national and international programmes also saw hundreds of portraits travel across the world as we continued to share our Collection as widely as possible.
The Gallery reopened to the public on 22 June 2023.
With thanks to our principal supporters:
Law Family Charitable Foundation
We would like to thank everyone who has worked on the Inspiring People project, including Jamie Fobert Architects and conservation architects, Purcell; structural engineers, Price & Myers; services engineers, Max Fordham; project manager, Gardiner & Theobald; main contractor, Gilbert Ash; cost consultants, Turner & Townsend; and interpretation designers, Nissen Richards Studio.
Creating a New Entrance
The new entrance and forecourt on the North Façade of the Gallery create a more welcoming and generous way in and relieve congestion. Three windows have been altered to form doorways leading to a large, open entrance hall, which will link with the Ondaatje Wing Main Hall and better connect the building. This new entrance is named Ross Place in recognition of the Ross Foundation’s generous support of the Inspiring People project. The new forecourt is designed to be a high quality civic space for both the public and Gallery visitors.
Redisplaying our Collection
The project provided 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 displays works that are relevant to a wide range of audiences and present missing or hidden stories from British history. Set amongst the Gallery’s best-loved paintings are 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, has reopened to the public as the new Weston Wing, supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation. This included converting what was office space back into stunning top-lit galleries on the first floor. The ground floor and basement levels have been refurbished, providing a flexible catering, social and display space with its own dedicated entrance.
Establishing a Learning Centre
Inspiring People has transformed the quality of education provision at the Gallery through the creation of a much-improved Learning Centre. The new Centre increases the Gallery’s learning spaces from one studio to three. Each studio has specialist equipment and breakout space, offering a better learning experience for schools, families, young people, community groups and adult learners.
Connecting with Young People
Inspiring People has enabled the Gallery to engage in new ways with young people and students. Partnerships with schools include Faces and Places, a schools outreach programme in London exploring representation and identity and Picturing History a new digital learning resource, which will enable schools to explore the Collection for curriculum based teaching. The Photographic Portrait Now, is a partnership with universities and photography students, which creates new work and displays and Creative Connections, is a co-curated exhibition programme for young people in Coventry, Southampton, Sheffield and Newlyn.
Working with Communities
An ambitious programme of nationwide activities brings the Gallery closer to communities around the country. Citizen UK, a partnership with community groups in Croydon, Ealing, Tower Hamlets and Wolverhampton explores stories of migration and movement and People Powered, a series of exhibitions created with partners in Brent, Ilford, Hillingdon, Hertfordshire and Teesside, uncovers the experiences of communities involved in creating world class exports. A National Skills Sharing Partnership with museums and galleries around the UK created a learning network with a focus on the theme ‘What is a portrait?’.