The National Portrait Gallery, one of London’s most high-profile museums, will reopen 22 June next year following a three-year closure. The Inspiring People redevelopment, the most extensive in the gallery’s 166-year history, is costing £35.5m.
The NPG recently accepted a £10m gift towards the revamp from the foundation set up by the British-American businessman Leonard Blavatnik. To recognise the donation, the Trafalgar Square institution’s will rename its first floor the “Blavatnik Wing” where nine galleries have been refurbished.
The Blavatnik Wing will be used to exhibit a comprehensive redisplay of the gallery’s permanent collection, showing portraits of some of the key figures in British history, from the Tudor era through to the mid-20th century. Notable portraits in the collection depict the naturalist Charles Darwin, who founded the theory of evolutionary biology, the political activist Emmeline Pankhurst and the British-Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole.
The Blavatnik-sponsored galleries have been designed by the architectural firm Jamie Fobert Architects working in partnership with the architects and heritage consultants Purcell. The NPG redevelopment also involves the transformation of the East Wing.
“The designs will also see the return of the Gallery’s East Wing to public use as the Weston Wing, restoring original gallery spaces and creating new retail and catering facilities,” says an NPG statement. The refurbishment is backed by a raft of sponsors including the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Ross Foundation. The National Lottery Heritage Fund also contributed.
A new entrance on the north façade of the gallery will be named Ross Place in recognition of funding from the Ross Foundation, the charity founded by the Carphone Warehouse businessman David Ross. “Drawing on the history of the building, the forecourt floor design [in the entrance] features a contemporary interpretation of the ‘fan pattern’ which runs through the Gallery’s original mosaic floors,” says an NPG statement.
The England and Chelsea footballer Raheem Sterling announced a new partnership earlier this week with the NPG. The Jamaican-born winger has launched a new creative youth engagement programme, entitled Making of Me, in partnership with the gallery via his Raheem Sterling Foundation.