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The Sainsbury Wing

In 1985 Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover and his brothers The Hon. Simon Sainsbury and Sir Timothy Sainsbury generously agreed to finance the construction of a new wing for the Gallery.

Staff with a model of the Sainsbury Wing interior in the 1990s. From left to right: Michael Wilson, Head of Exhibitions; Susan Foister, Curator; Neil MacGregor, Director; Nicholas Penny, Curator; and Dillian Gordon, Curator.

A site next to the Gallery had been vacant since the Second World War, when a furniture shop was destroyed by bombing. The new Sainsbury Wing was opened in 1991, to display the entire early Renaissance collection.

This followed on from the Northern Extension, which opened in 1975, providing considerable extra exhibition space. These new galleries made use of natural lighting as far as possible.

The Sainsbury Wing was added to the National Heritage List for England (Grade 1) in 2018.

The Gallery today and in the future 

Following the completion of the Sainsbury Wing, the Gallery had a total floor area of 46,396 metres squared - equivalent to around six football pitches, and big enough to hold over 2,000 London double-decker buses.

In 2024, to celebrate 200 years since our foundation, we are planning a programme of inspirational exhibitions and outreach around the country and around the world, under the banner NG200.

This includes the completion of an initial phase of works to our Trafalgar Square buildings in order to improve the ‘welcome’ we provide to our millions of visitors we receive each year. Find out more about the plans for the building.