Sotheby’s Institute of Art alumni recently had the opportunity to explore the newly refurbished National Portrait Gallery.
June marked the much-anticipated reopening of London’s National Portrait Gallery, following a three-year closure for the most extensive refurbishment on its landmark building since it opened in 1896. Just two weeks after this historic milestone, and on the occasion of London Art Week, Sotheby’s Institute alumni were treated to an exclusive opportunity to see this transformation without the crowds.
Over coffee in the Ondaatje Main Hall, over 150 former students, along with Sotheby's Institute faculty members were welcomed by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Dr Flavia Frigeri, CHANEL Curator for the Collection, and Janine Catalano, Director of Alumni Relations and Strategic Partnerships. Alumni then enjoyed private access to the major exhibition Paul McCartney Photographs,1963-1964: Eyes of the Storm.
The world's greatest collection of portraits, spanning six centuries, has been re-presented in beautifully renewed galleries and revitalised spaces. The chronological hang will take visitors on a journey through history, from the Middle Ages to the present day, telling the story of the United Kingdom through portraits. This incorporates the new Blavatnik Wing, encompassing nine elegantly refurbished rooms, which will exhibit some of the greatest portraits in the Collection, exploring society and culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries and showcasing works by the finest painters of the period, from Sir John Everett Millais and John Singer Sargent to Laura Knight and Lucian Freud.
The complete transformation of the building has increased public space by around a fifth, including converting office space into stunning top-lit galleries in the newly named Weston Wing, which will house the Gallery's contemporary collection. This suite of galleries, including The Mary Weston Gallery, will display portraits by world-leading artists such as Andreas Gursky, David Hockney, Steve McQueen, Shirin Neshat, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Gillian Wearing.
Over 1,100 portraits are now on display - an increase of over a third from pre-closure. All galleries have been beautifully refurbished in a scheme created by interpretation designers Nissen Richards Studio in collaboration with the Gallery's curatorial team. In addition to displaying the most familiar portraits, from Holbein's majestic drawing of Henry VIII to Sam Taylor Johnson's film of David Beckham sleeping, the Gallery has commissioned, acquired and borrowed new works to present a wider selection of people and stories.
Against the backdrop of a transformed London institution, the exclusive alumni event created an invaluable opportunity for graduates to maintain and further their connections with Sotheby's Institute and their fellow alumni.
Here are some of the highlights.