This refurbishment isn’t about extending the building or grafting something new onto something old,” says Nicholas Cullinan, the National Portrait Gallery’s director. “It’s a complete transformation of every square inch of a building that hasn’t been considered as a whole since it was opened in 1896.”
Britain’s national gallery of portraiture, built to house images of the country’s most famous and historically important citizens from the Middle Ages to the present day, has been the subject of a £44m refit that began in 2020. On Thursday, it reopens its doors to the public.
“We’ve taken out old shutters to let in light,” says Cullinan, gazing with delight at one of the bright new spaces that will open to the public on 22 June. “We’re taking back galleries that were leased to our neighbour the National Gallery 20 years ago, and we’re opening up the skylights.
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