Palace unveils pounds 10m gallery

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PLANS FOR a new pounds 10m public art gallery at Buckingham Palace were unveiled yesterday, promising major improvements for the display of one of the world's largest art collections.

The development, to be completed in time for the Queen's golden jubilee in 2002, is the biggest building project at the palace since 1913 when George V redesigned the facade. John Simpson, the neo-classical architect who advised the Prince of Wales on his model village in Poundbury, Dorset, is in charge of the work.

The expanded gallery will house the Queen's priceless collection of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Canaletto and Landseer. The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales had all "taken an enthusiastic part" in the project, which will be financed by tourist revenues at the palace and Windsor Castle, the director of the royal collection, Hugh Roberts, said. There will be no cost to the taxpayer.

"The idea is not to put on great blockbuster exhibitions," Mr Roberts said. "I doubt whether there's a single major work of art - or minor one - in the royal collection that has not been seen, either on permanent public view or public exhibition in this country. But the new gallery will allow us to show substantially more works of art at any one time."

The royal collection includes some 9,000 pictures, enamels and miniatures, thousands of drawings, watercolours and prints, as well books, furniture, sculpture, glass, porcelain, arms and armour, textiles, silver, gold and the Crown Jewels.

The present Queen's Gallery will close at the end of this year and reopen in February 2002.