National Galleries of Scotland reveals opening date for new art space

New fully accessible spaces will offer more than double the display space and 'transform the visitor experience.'

Edinburgh National Galleries: New gallery space to open on September 30

Scotland’s national gallery has revealed the opening date for new art spaces as part of a major £38m refurbishment.

The National Galleries of Scotland is to unveil ten new, light-filled rooms at its garden level on September 30 2023.

The new fully accessible spaces will be home to key works from the nation’s historic Scottish art collection, offering more than double the physical display space and transforming the visitor experience.

What can visitors expect?

The gallery is set to open ten new fully accessible galleries, which can be entered directly from the adjoining East Princes Street Gardens – with large windows offering views over the city.

They will be home to over 130 works of art along with five new international hangs at the Mound level this summer. There will also be two additional Scottish displays, offering over 460 artworks to discover.

This includes three areas designed to display drawings and other fragile artworks that will regularly change throughout the year.

Visitors can come in and discover the work of Scottish artists such as William McTaggart, Anne Redpath, Phoebe Anna Traquair, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Boys.

National Galleries in Edinburgh.iStock

How much did it cost?

The total project cost is £38.62m. This has been funded by major contributions from the Scottish Government (£15.25m) and The National Lottery Heritage Fund (£6.89m).

A successful fundraising campaign raised over £16m in donations from trusts, foundations, Patrons, the National Galleries of Scotland’s Friends organisation, American Patrons and a wide range of private individuals.

How were the galleries built?

The construction of the new galleries began in October 2018 and was one of the most complex engineering projects undertaken in a heritage building in Scotland, working within the constraints of a World Heritage site, above railways tunnels and excavating beneath a category-A listed building.

Several issues were discovered when the 1970s building was fully stripped back to its core concrete structure.

These included multiple instances of undocumented asbestos deposits which required safe removal; damp and water ingress issues which substantially changed the extent of the waterproofing requirements and undocumented obstructions including remnants from previous developments, which added significant complexity to the building work.

Deeply buried layers of dense concrete had to be extracted, impacting on the sequencing of the works while managing the complexity of the engineering works. All these challenges were successfully overcome to create generous, high-quality new spaces for the world’s most important collection of historic Scottish art.

The first phase of the project was completed successfully in 2019. This included a new entrance area in East Princes Street Gardens, a new café, refurbished restaurant and shop, an elegant sandstone terrace, and new landscaping and paths to improve access to the gardens and the galleries.

‘Transforming the gallery experience’

An artist's impression of the new gallery space

Chiefs said the vision for the project has been “driven by an ambition to ensure that the greatest number of people can enjoy key works that tell the fascinating story of Scottish art.”

The project has been funded by Scottish Government, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and a successful fundraising campaign.

Director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, Sir John Leighton, said: “This project has been driven by an ambition to transform the experience of visiting the National and to show the extraordinary collections of Scottish art with pride in beautiful, new, light-filled spaces.

“We believe that we have created a National Gallery that is more open, engaging and inviting than ever before.

“Whether immersing themselves in the highly Romantic paintings of the Scottish Highlands, taking part in a family day or just enjoying the views, all are welcome to come and discover.

“We are incredibly grateful to all our funders including the Scottish Government, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, key trusts and foundations, our Patrons, American Patrons and Friends as well as the many private individuals and donors who have been so generous in supporting this project.”

Culture minister Christina McKelvie said: “The National Galleries of Scotland has the world’s finest collection of Scottish Art and I’m delighted that the new galleries will now have space to show this off to a wide national and international public.

“We have supported this redevelopment project from the start with a significant contribution of £15.25m and it’s wonderful to see this will open soon so the public can enjoy these new galleries.”

Chief executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Eilish McGuinness, said: “We are proud to have been part of the transformation of the National, which has been a source of inspiration and learning for over 150 years and holds a special place in the hearts of the Scottish people, and throughout the UK.

“Thanks to players of the National Lottery we have supported the project with a £6.89m grant, from its earliest stages of planning, developing ideas and working with the team in delivering this complex and imaginative project.

“It’s exciting news that its now set to open its doors, inspiring generations to come, by offering a new perspective, doubling the gallery’s exhibition space, and improving access to its renowned collection of Scottish art.

“Having seen the project in its delivery I am now really looking forward to my first visit to the finished new gallery in September.”

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