Block buster Freud exhibition and the Duchess Of Cambridge raises National Portrait Gallery profile
The kate Middleton factor is proving its weight in gold for raising the profile of the already successful National Portrait Gallery who welcomed its unprecedented two millionth visitor today. This is a milestone which sets up the highest annual figures in the Gallery’s history, which are officially published at the end of the month.
St James’s Palace announced back in January the choices of patronage for the Duchess of Cambridge and it was no surprise that the History of art major chose two high profile visual art organisations including The National Portrait Gallery. Kate made a spectacular solo debut at the NPG,last month, when she attended the private view of the Lucian Freud portrait exhibition. She was greeted by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt as well as by Sandy Nairne, the gallery’s director. Kate was escorted around the exhibition by Nairne as well as the co-curators of the exhibition. In the gallery she mingled with well known art world personalities, including the photographer Mary McCartney (Linda and Paul’s daughter) and Bella Freud, the artist’s daughter, who was also the subject of a 1996 oil on canvas, featured in the show. The Duchess was particularly taken by the painting “Large Interior W11 (after Watteau) painted in 1981 and spent a long time gazing at the work. The exhibition has been the most successful in the NPG’s history.
The visitors through the door, when the figure of two million was reached, were given a surprise welcome by the Gallery’s director Mr Sandy Nairne. The Cara family from Northampton – Melanie, 45, Dave , 44, both doctors, and Josh, 14 – were presented with a year’s Membership to the Gallery (offering them special previews, discounts, and free admission to all paying exhibitions), a £100 voucher for the Portrait Restaurant and copies of the Gallery Guide and Highlights book.
Dave Cara said: ‘This is wonderful. I’m a regular visitor to the National Portrait Gallery and most of my knowledge of the history of British monarchs was learnt from my visits here over the years.’The Caras were the two millionth visitors recorded since the 2011-12 financial year started last April (the full figures will be published at the end of this month).
Last year’s figure was 1,819,442 while the Gallery’s previous highest ever figure in 2009-10 was 1,961,843 visits. The period included the three most-visited months in the Gallery’s history: February 2012 and July and August 2011.
100,000 people have already visited the hugely popular Lucian Freud Portraits, and last year’s BP Portrait Award 2011 exhibition – free entry made possible by BP’s sponsorship – received the largest number of visitors for any National Portrait Gallery exhibition (341,050).
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The growing popularity of the National Portrait Gallery is made possible by having creative and hard-working staff, dedicated volunteers and great trustees, supported through an enterprising combination of public and private sector funding.’