Scotland's portrait gallery fulfils 120-yr-old dream

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:39am EST
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By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland's National Portrait Gallery reopens on Thursday after a 17.6 million-pound ($27 million) renovation that finally fulfils the dreams of its architect when it first opened its doors 120 years ago.

It is the second multi-million pound artistic project to be completed in the Scottish capital this year - both on budget and on time.

The National Museum of Scotland reopened its doors in July in all its Victorian glory after a 47-million-pound makeover gave it a spectacular boost into the 21st century. The museum said more than a million visitors have passed through its doors since they reopened.

Portrait Gallery Director James Holloway and museum chief Gordon Rintoul both said the successful completion of the renovations was down to careful prior planning and sticking strictly to the plans and budgets.

This is in stark contrast to two other huge projects in Edinburgh: the Scottish national parliament which was years late and many millions over budget before opening in 1999, and a curtailed tram system under construction, which is also running years late and hugely over budget.

Gallery officials said the neo-Gothic sandstone building was the world's first purpose-built portrait gallery when it opened on Queen Street in Edinburgh's New Town in 1889 to the design of architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. But for more than a century much of the space was taken up as a museum store-house and offices, with art displays crammed into only a third of the building.

National Galleries director John Leighton told Reuters at a preview that the renovation had changed this dramatically.

"The portrait gallery now occupies the whole building for the first time," he said. "We have opened the upper floors to provide 60 per cent more space."   Continued...

<p>A woman looks at the artwork on display in the Ramsay Room, during a special viewing of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland November 28, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir</p>