The National Portrait Gallery Is Set To Close For Three Years

Alex Landon Alex Landon - Editor

National Portrait Gallery

Change is afoot at the National Portrait Gallery.

If you’re the kind of person who was devastated by Big Ben falling silent for a four-year redevelopment (of which we’re over halfway through, by the way), then we’ve got more sobering news. In November, the National Portrait Gallery announced in that it’ll be closed for three years in order to undergo a transformative redevelopment – so if you’re looking for great art, you’ll need to head along sharpish.

See also: The very best London art exhibitions happening in 2020.

National Portrait Gallery
Artist’s impression of the redeveloped entrance. Photo: NPG

With £35.5 million in the kitty, the National Portrait Gallery intends to mount an ambitious overhaul of the building. Chief amongst their priorities is the desire to create a brand new main entrance, to reduce congestion and provide a more welcoming access point, as well as opening a public forecourt. The works will also involve reopening the East Wing, which had been shuttered to the public and turned into office space, and turning it into gallery space.

In a rather Herculean undertaking, the gallery will also use the hiatus to upgrade the galleries and re-hang their entire collection of 195,000 portraits. Finally, a nice slice of the budget (which you can help fund!) will be splashed on opening a state of the art ‘Learning Centre’, suitable for schools, community groups, and families. It’s all very ambitious, hence the three-year project.

National Portrait Gallery
The new learning centre. Photo: NPG

The official closing date for the National Portrait Gallery is June 29th, 2020, but works will start to be taken down from late May. Oh, and because you’re probably wondering where all that art is going in the meantime, the gallery has announced a plan to loan out works to galleries across the country. A series of nationwide collaborations will see works displayed at The National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, York Art Gallery, the Holbourne Museum in Bath, the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, National Trust properties, and several more.

There’s been no official word on what’ll happen to annual displays like the BP Portrait Award and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize, so keep your ear to the ground for info on that. Assuming there’s no hitch in the works, the gallery is slated to reopen in spring 2023. In the meantime, let’s hope no other London landmarks are planning a refurbishment, or things could get a lot quieter around here…

Find out more about the redevelopment on the gallery’s website.

Featured image: @nationalportraitgallery

Also published on Medium.

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