Scottish National Gallery Project: view of Introduction Space. Graphic interpretation: Metaphor.
The National Galleries of Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund have announced the confirmation of a £4.94 m award to support an ambitious major redevelopment of the Scottish National Gallery (SNG) in Edinburgh.
A HLF Stage One pass was announced in March 2015, and following a recent meeting of the HLF trustees, full support for the award has now been confirmed.
The £16.8 m extension will radically improve access to the SNG’s world-class collection of Scottish art. Preparation is due to begin in September 2016, with construction work commencing on site in January 2017 and continuing until summer 2018. The new space will be open to the public in autumn of that year.
The planned redevelopment of the SNG, entitled Celebrating Scotland’s Art, will triple the exhibition space available to the Scottish collection from 440 m to 1320 m, vastly improve visitor access and circulation throughout the SNG complex, and create a more sympathetic setting and entrance for the SNG within the East Princes St Gardens.
Designed by the celebrated Scottish architect William Henry Playfair (1790-1857) and situated right in the heart of Edinburgh, the SNG is the most popular UK art gallery outside of London, attracting over 1.4 million visitors in 2015/16. It is home to the world’s finest collection of historic Scottish art, rich in the works of incomparable artists such as Allan Ramsay, Sir Henry Raeburn and Sir David Wilkie, as well as many, many others. The completion of this project will give this wonderful resource the prominence it deserves, and enable the NGS to engage visitors and highlight the history, significance and impact of Scottish art, both nationally and internationally, to a much wider audience.
The new displays will tell the story of Scottish art from the 17th to the mid-20th century (including the Scottish Colourists), within a clear chronological framework, while also exploring themes of wider cultural relevance. The presentation will be regularly refreshed with the addition of dynamic and changing displays drawn from the riches of the collection, including the outstanding holding of Scottish graphic art.
This project will mark a fundamental change in the way the Gallery presents historical Scottish art. Michael Clarke, Director of the Scottish National Gallery and the Project’s Director, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Project has received the full and generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. Scotland’s historic art will at last be displayed in a space that will do it justice and enable our visitors from home and abroad to appreciate fully its many and distinctive qualities. Our world-famous collections, displayed in our historic and sympathetically remodelled Gallery, will reinforce our position as one of Scotland’s ‘must see’ attractions.”
Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said:“We are delighted that thanks to the National Lottery playing public, the most important collection of Scottish Art in the world will have a home worthy of its impressive heritage. This project will breathe new life into the collection so that it can bring joy and inspiration to national and international visitors. Importantly, it will also reach out to schools and community groups across the country so that they too can learn from and enjoy these national treasures.”
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, added: “The Scottish National Gallery is one of Scotland’s top visitor attractions, welcoming approximately 1.4 million visitors through its doors each year. The generous support shown by the Heritage Lottery Fund recognises the importance of the National Galleries of Scotland’s Celebrating Scotland’s Art project. It presents a fantastic opportunity to promote the enduring influence and legacy that Scottish Art and artists have had on the world and to help engage new audiences, who are certain to be inspired and enriched by the new facilities and activities that will be on offer.”
One of Scotland’s leading architectural practices, Hoskins Architects (HA), which has been widely praised for a number of high-profile designs in the arts and cultural sector, including the award-winning redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland, was appointed to the SNG project in 2014. Before his untimely death earlier this year, the firm’s founder, Gareth Hoskins OBE, created an outstanding design for the project, which is being taken forward by Director Chris Coleman-Smith. The plans will stand, as will other major projects designed by Gareth Hoskins, both in this country and abroad, as a memorial to his exceptional talent.
The design will open up a suite of new gallery spaces which, for the first time, will be directly accessible from East Princes St Gardens, and will utilise former office, print room and storage space to maximise the area given to the new displays. The space will be enhanced by natural light, and will also offer stunning views into the Gardens and the city beyond. Circulation throughout the entire SNG complex will be rationalised and radically improved, and sympathetic landscaping will integrate the SNG with the Gardens, significantly enhancing this important part of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. The terrace outside the Gallery will be substantially expanded and a new pathway created. Access to the Gardens as a whole will be much improved, with major enhancements to disabled access. These ambitious plans are currently with City of Edinburgh Council for consideration.
In January of this year, the National Galleries of Scotland Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament to allow the transfer of a narrow strip of common good land in East Princes St Gardens to the NGS. Incorporating this strip – a steep, grassy bank between the pedestrian walkway and the windows of the Gallery’s office accommodation – will create a new elevation which aligns with that of the existing visitor facilities at Gardens level. As well as contributing to the increase in exhibition space within the Gallery it will also create a wider footpath at the level above, which is a busy and often congested pedestrian thoroughfare. The increased connectivity between Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, from Princes Street and the Royal Mile, at both the Gardens and street level, will be of great benefit to the city as a whole.
During the renovation, the SNG will remain open to the public with access to the main floor rooms, which will be largely unaffected by the redevelopment plans. The Scottish collection spaces, Library and Print Room will be closed from Tuesday 30 August 2016. During the redevelopment and on opening, there will be an extensive programme of activity, which will give the National Galleries a chance to involve the community in the project and dramatically improve learning opportunities, especially for schools and families.