The National Portrait Gallery is to close for nearly three years when building work begins on a top-to-bottom £35.5m redevelopment of its 123-year-old London home in June 2020.
The announcement comes as a surprise. When the revamp was first announced earlier this year a complete closure was not on the cards. A spokesperson said on Tuesday that after all the options had been considered, a decision had been taken that the most efficient way to complete the project and safeguard visitors, staff and the collection was to close completely from 29 June 2020 until spring 2023.
The gallery is receiving criticism for the length of the closure. Bendor Grosvenor, an art historian and broadcaster, tweeted: “The more I think about the NPG closure, the less I understand it. Not least because it’s a fine space, with wonderful galleries. I think you only contemplate a three year closure if you view your audience with contempt.”
The closure would mean staff changes, including some job losses, the gallery said. “Where possible, staff will be offered part-time working and career break opportunities and the gallery is looking at a range of secondment opportunities with other institutions during the building period,” it said, adding it was consulting with unions and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which provides its main source of funding.
To offset the closure for the £35.5m revamp, the gallery said it would send 300 of its portraits in each year to institutions across the UK, including York Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum in Bath and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Under the redevelopment in London by Jamie Fobert Architects, which carried out the redesign of Tate St Ives in 2017, a new entrance will be punched through the northern wall of the gallery on St Martin’s Place, offices will be turned into display spaces and the entire collection will be rehung.