On June 29th next year, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London will close for the evening, but it won’t reopen the next morning. For three years, the museum, located just behind the National Gallery, will remain shuttered as it undergoes an expansive, £35.5 million revamp. So, if you’ve been meaning to stop by, make sure and do that sooner rather than later.
The redevelopment was not new news, it was announced in January this year, but, at that time the NPG was expecting to remain open during the renovations. Then, on Tuesday, the announcement was made that the museum would close during the process ‘in order to complete the project efficiently, and to safeguard visitors, members of staff, and the collection.’ In preparation for the closure, the museum has had to secure off-site storage for works that will be displaced. Additionally, the museum has acknowledged that there will be job losses during the closure, particularly front of house staff. ‘When possible,’ a museum spokesperson said, ‘staff will be offered part-time working and career break opportunities and the gallery is looking at a range of secondment opportunities with other institutions during the building period.’ The museum employees more than 250 people at the moment.
As part of the redesign, the 123-year-old building will get a new, more welcoming entrance. This will open up the narrow feel of the original Victorian entrance according to project architect Jamie Fobert. The NPG also hopes that the new entrance will make the museum more inviting to the public during the day and evening. The redevelopment will also increase gallery space for the museum’s vast collection.
In the meantime, a portion of the NPG’s collection will head out to other museums for exhibitions. Some 300 portraits will enhance exhibitions across the UK, including those in Bath, Newcastle, Liverpool, and Edinburgh, as well as others around the world including ones in the US, Japan, and Australia. Within the UK, over 100 portraits that span five centuries of royalty, from the Tudors to the Windsors, will head across London to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. A number of portraits will also be lent to the Coming Home project, which seeks to bring artworks to the places they’re most associated with. As part of this initiative, portraits of Richard III, Florence Nightingale, Malala Yousafzai, and Meera Sral will travel to York, Derby, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton, respectively, in 2020. The NPG will work in conjunction with the London National Gallery loaning works that correspond with their neighbour’s collection.
The NPG’s director, Nicholas Cullinan, stated that the forthcoming remodel will be ‘a unique and important chapter in [the National Portrait Gallery’s] history.’ The NPG will then become, he continued, ‘more welcoming and engaging to all and fulfil our role as the nation’s family album.’