During the revamp, some of the collection will go on tour but most heads for storage as some front-of-house staff face loss of jobs.
Usually, art museums are struggling to keep their doors open even during major renovations. Yet London’s National Portrait Gallery has revealed it will close for almost three years as it is undergoing a £ 35.5 million ($45 million) revamp designed to expand its gallery entrance and overhaul.
The unprecedented decision will indicate that for years the majority of its famous collection will go into storage. In the museum world, there will also be some job losses that have raised alarm bells among onlookers.
The National Art Museum highlights the upside: while it is closed between June 2020 and Spring 2023, the gallery will loan about 300 paintings of the Greats of Britain to UK museums, and also send parts of the collection to Japan, Australia, and The us on a global tour.
The redevelopment was anticipated to be largely completed while the museum remained open to visitors, but the institution said in a statement that the closure was needed “to effectively complete the project and to protect visitors, staff members, and the collection.”
The NPG reveals that the temporary shuttering will result in front-of-house staff losses. A spokeswoman confirms that the museum also had to secure additional off-site storage.
She’s adding “where possible staff will be offered part-time working and career-break opportunities.”
During the three-year closure, a spokeswoman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport states, the national art museum will continue to receive about £ 7 million ($9 million) from the UK government.
In a statement, Nicholas Cullinan, director of the gallery, concentrated on the value of the loan exhibitions rather than on the effects of the long closure of the museum. He referred to it “a unique and important chapter in our history as we embark on our journey to deliver a transformed National Portrait Gallery.”
He has added: “We look forward to hearing from other organizations who are interested in working with us during this time, so that we can make the most of this extraordinary opportunity to circulate a national collection as widely as possible.”
Some question the wisdom of such a long closure, though. Bendor Grosvenor, art historian and broadcaster, tells Artnet News: “The NPG is treating its audience with contempt. To sneak out the news in this way is wrong.”
He says serious questions about the project must now be asked. Grosvenor greets the enhanced UK loans, but calls so much of the collection’s expensive storage an “outrage.” He is also concerned that “long-serving and knowledgeable” staff might lose their jobs.
“A museum development that requires alienating visitors and spending significant amounts to do so is at risk of failure even before it begins,” says Grosvenor.


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