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Lottery fund agrees support to expand gallery

Artist's impression of extension (Hoskins Architects)
Artist’s impression of extension (Hoskins Architects)

An expansion of the Scottish National Gallery has been agreed under a £4.94 million package of support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The money will go towards the £16.8 m extension which the National Galleries says will “radically improve access” to the collection of Scottish art. 

Work will begin in September with construction on site beginning in January 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 440m to 1320m, 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 more than 1.4 million visitors.

It is home to the world’s finest collection of historic Scottish art, rich in the works of artists such as Allan Ramsay, Sir Henry Raeburn and Sir David Wilkie. 

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: “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.”

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “The most important collection of Scottish Art in the world will have a home worthy of its impressive heritage.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (right), added: “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.”

One of Scotland’s leading architectural practices, Hoskins Architects (HA), which worked on 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, created the design for the project, which is being taken forward by Director Chris Coleman-Smith.

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 use former office, print room and storage space to maximise the area given to the new displays. 

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.

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