Rendering of the facade of the new north entrance to the National Portrait Gallery in London. Photo: Jamie Fobert Architects; Forbes Massie Studio. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

National Portrait Gallery in London Will Close for Three Years for Major Renovation

The National Portrait Gallery in London is planning to close its doors for three years to complete the largest restoration project in its history—the museum opened in St Martin’s Place in 1896. The $46 million overhaul will be led by Jamie Fobert Architects, who will work in partnership with Purcell, and will include the construction of a new visitor entrance on the gallery’s north facade, improved accessibility, the conservation of the building’s historic features, and the reinstallation of the gallery’s entire collection across forty refurbished galleries and the institution’s previously closed east wing.

“This is a unique and important chapter in our history as we embark on our journey to deliver a transformed National Portrait Gallery, which will enable us to become more welcoming and engaging to all and fulfil our role as the nation’s family album,” museum director Nicholas Cullinan told BBC. The gallery recently received a $12 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in support of the project, as well as $8 million from the trustees of the Garfield Weston Foundation, and estimates that it will raise the rest of its target funds this fall.

Since the museum will be temporarily shuttered from June 29, 2020 until the spring of 2023, a spokesperson told the Art Newspaper that there will be “some job losses,” but “where possible, staff will be offered part-time working and career break opportunities.” The gallery also said that a few off-site positions might be available at institutions where the gallery will present exhibitions and other programming during the closure.

It is currently planning to send more than three hundred portraits to York Art Gallery, the National Museums Liverpool, Laing Art Gallery, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, among other museums over the course of the next three years. It will also lend several pieces to its neighbor, the National Gallery, and will present a selection of Tudor portraits at the Holburne Museum in Bath in 2022.