Scottish National Portrait Gallery given a £2m boost as facelift gets under way
THE transformation of the capital's grandest – and lately the shabbiest – gallery is under way in earnest.
The former Museum of Antiquities in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery which will be open to the public for the first time after the renovation work is complete
A 2 million donation was announced yesterday towards the 17.6m overhaul of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, a massive make-over for the much-loved, but often gloomy Edinburgh edifice.
The award from the Monument Trust, a Sainsbury family charitable trust, means 80 per cent of the funding for the ambitious project is now in place, gallery bosses said.
Contractors BAM Construction formally took over the site to begin work this month, and the 120-year-old Queen Street building will soon disappear under a cloak of scaffold.
The Portrait of a Nation project will see the gallery reopen in late 2011. It will have twice as much exhibition space, with five stunning, top-lit galleries on its upper floor.
The goal is to restore the full Victorian grandeur of the gallery, its construction championed by John Ritchie Findlay, then owner of The Scotsman.
The works will also add a glass lift capable of carrying 50 people between floors, new education suites, offices and an enlarged caf.
It is hoped visitor numbers will increase by 50 per cent to 300,000 a year.
"It is a little like seeing a dear elderly relative who has just gone into hospital for major surgery," said gallery director James Holloway. "You hate it, but you know at the end it's going to be fantastic."
The top floor of the gallery will see the most dramatic change in the refit. On the eastern side, the airy arched galleries with skylights, used for decades as storage space for museum artefacts, will be opened to the public for the first time in at least 20 years.
The west roof – lowered last century – will be removed and replaced to match the east side. A temporary roof will be put in place to ensure the building remains watertight during construction works. Themed exhibitions in the galleries will breath new life into its classic portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert Burns and scores of other historical figures.
One of the first shows on the reopened top floor will feature naval battles of the First World War, as captured by Sir John Lavery, one of the Glasgow Boys school of painting and an official war artist. About 35 Lavery paintings are being loaned by the Imperial War Museum for the show.
Architect Robert Rowand Anderson partly modelled the neo-Gothic building on the Doge's Palace in Venice. The revamp will remove partitions and restore open interior views.
"One of the big things that's going to amaze people is how light the building is. It won't be a dark and gloomy building," said Mr Holloway.
The Scottish Government has put 5.1m into the refit, which also received 4.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A fundraising drive is seeking donors to sponsor portraits from the famous frieze in the main hall, as well as the stars and constellations on its ceiling.
John Leighton, the director-general of National Galleries of Scotland, said: "We will at last be able to make effective use of one of the most outstanding buildings in Edinburgh."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west