London's National Portrait Gallery to close for three years

It is part of a multi-million pound redevelopment project to transform the gallery

Pedestrians walk past the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery in central London on August 24, 2018. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
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London’s famed National Portrait Gallery is to close for nearly three years as part of a multi-million pound redevelopment project.

The gallery’s 300 portraits are set to visit parts of the UK, including to Edinburgh, York, Bath and Newcastle, when the building is closed from 29 June 2020 until Spring 2023. It is, however, expected that some of the 270 staff will lose their jobs.

“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,” said its director Nicholas Cullinan,

A key feature of the “essential” £35.5 million (Dh168m) redevelopment is a new entrance and the creation of a public forecourt. It was decided the gallery should be completely closed to the public to protect visitors, staff and the collection, and to ensure the project is completed efficiently.

“During this time, we will continue to share our Collection with the nation as we embark on an ambitious programme of activities which will see hundreds of works travel across the UK through a series of partnerships and collaborations,” the gallery said.

Explaining the timing, it added: “Revitalising the building, updating the galleries and extending our national programme will provide us with the opportunity to connect with new and existing visitors and ensure the Gallery remains relevant to all our audiences in the 21st Century.”

The decision was slammed by one art historian, who warned that museums do not always re-open on time.

Dr Bendor Grosvenor tweeted: “Just announced that the redevelopment will require complete closure of the gallery for three years. I don’t remember this being mentioned when the redevelopment was announced. Complete closures don’t usually work well.”

“The more I think about the NPG closure, the less I understand it. Not least because it's a fine space, with wonderful galleries. I think you only contemplate a three-year closure if you view your audience with contempt,” he later said.