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National Portrait Gallery Collection to Travel across the UK as Inspiring People Redevelopment Begins in July 2020


he National Portrait Gallery, London, will share its unique Collection of portraits with the nation in a major programme of activities across the UK, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and a major new grant from Art Fund, as work begins on Inspiring People, the Gallery’s biggest-ever redevelopment, in July 2020.

300 portraits a year will travel to regions across the UK from Cornwall to Edinburgh

Beginning in 2020, this ambitious nationwide program will show hundreds of works from the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, some of which are rarely loaned, through a series of partnerships and collaborations during the period of redevelopment. The Gallery is also calling for expressions of interest from organisations interested in partnering with them during this time in order to share the Collection around the country as widely as possible.

Inspiring People will transform the National Portrait Gallery. Designed by Jamie Fobert Architects and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project comprises a comprehensive re-display of the Collection from the Tudors to now, combined with a complete refurbishment of the building, the creation of new public spaces, a more welcoming visitor entrance and public forecourt, and a new state of the art Learning Centre.

In order to complete the project efficiently and to safeguard visitors, members of staff and the Collection, the Gallery in St Martin’s Place will temporarily close to the public from 29 June 2020 until spring 2023, while essential building works take place. 



National Programme of Activities will include:

• New regional exhibitions are drawn from the National Portrait Gallery Collection, including an exhibition in partnership with York Art Gallery in 2021, an exhibition of Tudor portraits curated in partnership with the Holburne Museum, Bath, in 2022 and exhibition projects with National Museums Liverpool, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. These exhibitions will then tour to other UK venues.

• The Gallery’s flagship programme Coming Home, supported by £400,000 from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, in which portraits of iconic individuals travel to the places they are most associated with, will continue. New loans in 2020 include Meera Syal travelling to the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Florence Nightingale to Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Richard III to The Yorkshire Museum in York, following its recent display in Leicester, and Malala Yousafzai, the girls’ education activist, who will travel to Aston Hall in Birmingham.

• Faces of Change, the Gallery’s partnership exhibitions with the National Trust will run throughout 2020 with a new exhibition of portraits from the National Portrait Gallery Collection touring to three different National Trust properties - Mottisfont, Basildon Park and Hughenden.

• A partnership with Royal Museums Greenwich, beginning with the exhibition Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits. Opening at the National Maritime Museum in April 2020, it will see over 100 works from the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, spanning 500 years of royal portraiture, go on display in one of London’s key royal sites, accompanied by significant pieces from Royal Museums Greenwich and other collections.

• A series of special projects with London’s National Gallery will include the display of the National Portrait Gallery’s famous Henry VIII cartoon by Hans Holbein the Younger (1536-1537), shown alongside Holbein’s The Ambassadors, from the National Gallery Collection, for the first time.

• The Gallery’s National Skills and Knowledge exchange programme, which will see the Gallery work with 12 museums and galleries, starting in Belfast, Nottingham, Sudbury, and Plymouth, to co-curate displays with strong links between these venues and the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection.

• Partnerships with communities and schools across the UK, drawing on the Gallery’s Collection, will include Faces and Places - a new schools outreach programme in seven London boroughs accompanied by displays in nearby schools, libraries, arts centres and museums; Citizen UK - a project working with local heritage and community partners in London and Wolverhampton to explore stories of migration and movement within the UK; and People Powered – a series of exhibitions created with partners in London and Teesside, uncovering the experiences of communities involved in creating international and world-class exports, such as steel in Middlesbrough or football in Wembley.

International Touring Programme: 

• The Gallery will also continue to grow its international programme, representing the best of British history and culture abroad. Tudors to Windsors will tour to the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo from October - December 2020 in partnership with Fuji TV; and Love Stories, an exhibition from the Gallery’s Collection, which explores the synergy between portraiture, love, and relationships since the 1600s, will premiere in Australia in mid-2020, before traveling on to venues in the United States.

The Gallery has now secured £32.7m of its £35.5m funding target. This includes the £9.4m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, a £6.5 million grant from the Trustees of the Garfield Weston Foundation towards the creation of a new public wing, £500,000 from the Wolfson Foundation, £400,000 from the Foyle Foundation and £350,000 from the Art Fund. The Gallery is confident that it will secure the remaining £2.8m before building work commences and is grateful for the support of many members of the public through the Making History Appeal.

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