Scottish National Portrait Gallery set to reopen in style following £17.6 million restoration

By Culture24 Reporter | 29 November 2011
A portrait painting of a man in a green suit looking down
David Eustace, John Byrne© David Eustace (2010)
Mary, Queen of Scots poses sombrely, Robert Burns seems stoic in sideburns, and James Fraser, a late 17th and early 18th century Major, looks natty in a multi-coloured jumpsuit.

Dr Who star Karen Gillan appears angelic in a lacy white dress, Kenny Dalglish is captured in full flight for the Scottish football team, and Scottish miners are pictured down the pits and at play shortly before the demise of their industry in the 1980s.

And in the newly created photography gallery, there's an aerial view of Edinburgh taken from 18,000 feet and then extensively manipulated by Royal Navy Air Service instructor Alfred G Buckham.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh became the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery when it originally opened in 1889, and it now has significantly more space to entertain visitors after a £17.6 million restoration scheme which has made previously inaccessible parts of the place available for public perusal, as well as improving facilities across the much-loved red sandstone building.

Thematically ordered and resurrecting an elegant suite of top-lit galleries on the upper floor, the original design by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson has been refurbished to bring back original features alongside modern additions such as a glass lift which will carry audiences through the core of the space.

John Leighton, the Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland, called the gallery a "superb setting" to highlight the "rich traditions" of art and photography north of the border.

"It is also a forum where issues of history and identity come to life through art," he added.

"Perhaps, above all, it is a place where individual and collective stories and memories come together to create a fascinating and imaginative portrait of a nation."

First Minister Alex Salmond was in populist mood. "The improvements to the magnificent building will allow visitors to experience much of what architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson envisaged in his original design," he suggested.

"It continues to showcase Scotland's greatest asset – its people."

  • Opens December 1 2011. See Culture24 for our review.
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