The National Portrait Gallery is to receive £9.4 million from The National Lottery towards a £35.5m refurbishment programme, which will be the Gallery’s biggest ever development and its most significant project since the opening of its Ondaatje Wing in 2000.
‘The National Portrait Gallery is the nation’s family album’ – Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Director
Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery, London is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and … to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’. The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world.
With over 1000 portraits on display across three floors, from Elizabeth I to David Beckham, the Gallery has something for everyone. Artists featured range from Holbein to Hockney, and the Collection includes work across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography and video.
The National Lottery support will go towards the project Inspiring People: Transforming our National Portrait Gallery. For the first time in the Gallery’s history, there will be a comprehensive re-display of the Collection across all the galleries combined with a significant refurbishment, creating twenty per cent more public and gallery spaces. The transformation will also see the Gallery’s most extensive programme of activities nationwide with plans to engage audiences onsite, locally, regionally and online.
As part of the project, the National Portrait Gallery will restore its East Wing – last used for galleries in the 1960s – to public use; will improve its main entrance and will create a new state-of-the-art Learning Centre with a number of studio spaces. As well as extending activities for schools, families, young people and students, a volunteering programme will be introduced.
A nationwide schools programme for teaching history, citizenship, literacy, and art through portraiture will be underpinned by a large-scale training programme for teachers and through targeted university partnerships with PGCE tutors. With this development programme, the Gallery hopes to reach over 200,000 schools across the UK, and over 300,000 young people including those not in education, employment or training.
New partnerships with museums and organisations throughout the country, will build on the Gallery’s national presence. In Creative Connections, the Gallery will work with museums in Coventry, Manchester, Southampton, and Sheffield on a co-curated exhibition programme for young people which will result in a new artist commission and the display of up to 20 portraits from the Gallery’s Photographic Collection at each partner venue.
In The Photographic Portrait Now the Gallery will work with course leaders at universities and colleges in Plymouth, Farnham, South Wales, Westminster and Bournemouth to connect students to high profile photographers through master-classes.
The process of appointing an architect for the Gallery’s building development will begin in the autumn. The Gallery has already embarked on its fundraising with over £7m pledged towards the project. With the HLF’s support, which includes an initial development grant of £900,000, building work is scheduled to start on Inspiring People: Transforming our National Portrait Gallery in 2020. The Gallery aims to reach its target of £35.5m by March 2019 in order to complete the project by 2022.
Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The National Portrait Gallery is the nation’s family album, from Katherine Parr to Martin Parr. Understanding our national identity is more relevant now than ever, so we have an urgent job to do. We are very grateful for the vital support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which crucially represents, as we do, people nationwide. This major grant enables the biggest transformation the Gallery has ever undertaken. We are going to make ourselves an essential place for everyone to feel part of the culture they have been born into, chosen, or are seeking to understand, to become a truly national gallery for all.’
Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, says: ‘The National Portrait Gallery is loved and admired not just for its wonderful collection but also as a centre for serious debate about how best we engage with our national identity. Thanks to this investment of £9.4m from The National Lottery, the National Portrait Gallery can begin an extensive modernisation programme. We are particularly pleased that this funding will also be used to increase the Gallery’s reach across the UK by working closely with a number of cultural institutions, from South Wales to Sheffield, and with a focus on young people, families and those with special needs.’
Kim Mawhinney, Head of Art, National Museums NI, says: ‘Central to the National Portrait Gallery’s development has been its commitment to working closely with organisations throughout Britain and Northern Ireland. To be so closely involved in a development project from the outset has been really important in helping us forge a long-term relationship based on sharing skills and collections knowledge both within organisations and in building our audiences and public programmes.’