The Great Hall at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopens

Simon Stephens, 30.11.2011
New displays follow themes within five key periods
The world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery is reopening tomorrow in Edinburgh following a £17.6m redevelopment.

The revamp of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG), which is part of the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), took more than two and half years and is the first major refurbishment in its 120-year history.

The gallery has a collection of 3,000 paintings and sculptures, with more than 900 artworks now on display. This includes 211 works that NGS has never shown before.

“We have rethought the concept of what a portrait gallery can be in the 21st century,” said NGS director-general John Leighton. “It is a forum where issues of history and identity come to life through art.”

The new displays are chronological but follow various themes within five key periods: reformation; enlightenment; empire; modernity; and contemporary.

A dedicated photography gallery reflects the importance of the medium in the collection, which features more than 38,000 photographs.

The redevelopment has been led by SNPG director James Holloway, who has been supported by the gallery’s deputy director and chief curator Nicola Kalinsky. Glasgow-based architect Page\Park has overseen the refurbishment of the SNPG. Studioarc is the exhibition design consultant.

Funding came from the Scottish government (£7.1m), Heritage Lottery Fund (£4.8m), various trusts (£4.1m), and individuals and corporate sources (£1.6m).

NGS is hoping to raise a further £1m to fund new displays, tour exhibitions across Scotland and develop an outreach programme.

The gallery first opened in 1889 and was designed by Robert Rowand Anderson.