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The National Gallery announces NG200 plans

Issued February 2021

The National Gallery has today (16 February 2021) announced it is seeking a multi-disciplinary design team to work with it on a suite of capital projects to mark its Bicentenary, with an initial phase to be opened in 2024.

To celebrate 200 years since its foundation in 1824, the National Gallery is planning a programme of inspirational exhibitions and outreach around the country and around the world, under the banner NG200. This will also include the completion of an initial phase of works to its Trafalgar Square buildings in order to improve the ‘welcome’ it provides to the millions of visitors it receives each year.

The brief for the project includes sensitive interventions to the Grade I listed Sainsbury Wing to reconfigure the ground floor entrance and upgrade the visitor amenities, creating new spaces that will provide a welcome experience befitting a world-class institution and that meets the expectations of 21st-century visitors.

A new Research Centre, likely to be housed in the historic Wilkins Building, will support the Gallery’s vision of becoming a world leader in research into historic painting, and communicate its work as a global thought leader by creating a powerful resource for studies into art history, digital humanities, conservation, and heritage science. It will be a resource for everyone interested in studying art, from students to international academics.

The successful team will also be asked to reimagine the public realm immediately outside the Sainsbury Wing and along the northern edge of Trafalgar Square to improve the presence of the building in its context and create a more attractive and enjoyable setting for visitors and the public.

Underpinning the brief is the desire to create healthy, sustainable, and accessible spaces and an environment that is open and inclusive where visitors can relax as they plan their visit to one of the world’s finest art collections. Following a year of unprecedented challenges due to Covid-19, the National Gallery wants to build on its strength, inventiveness and relevance to play a vital role in the nation’s recovery story.

Commenting on the plans for the works, Director of the National Gallery, Dr Gabriele Finaldi said: ‘We are extremely fortunate to have a superb building and a modern classic in the Sainsbury Wing; one that has more than met its original brief, notably in the practically perfect picture galleries. The dual challenge of a huge increase in visitor numbers and the changing expectations and needs of those visitors over the last 30 years, means we do need to look again at the spaces we have, and in particular the ground floor entrances and amenities.

We recognise, of course, that we are all currently experiencing an unprecedented time of crisis which impacts every sector in every part of our country and across the globe. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on visitor numbers to all cultural and arts institutions, the National Gallery included, and it will take time for these to return to 2019 levels.

But there is hope on the horizon and art and culture have a vital role to play in the healing of our country. The National Gallery was the first major museum to open after lockdown restrictions were lifted in July 2020, demonstrating its commitment to be part of the nation’s recovery story. As the nation’s gallery we want to play a full part in this in the future, and to do so, we need to start planning now.’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘The National Gallery has been inspiring visitors for almost 200 years, and this innovative project will welcome a new generation of art lovers to its halls. Culture is going to play a central role in the nation's recovery, with global icons like the National Gallery helping us build back better from the pandemic.’

The selection of a design team will take place in two stages. The first is an open, international call for architect-led, multi-disciplinary design teams to register their interest and demonstrate the relevant skills and experience. A shortlist of up to five teams will then be asked to submit details of their approach to the design and delivery of the project and will be interviewed by a selection panel. No design work is being asked for and some expenses will be paid to the shortlisted teams. An appointment is expected to be made in July 2021.

Paul Gray, the Chief Operating Officer at the National Gallery is leading the selection process. He said: ‘We are looking for a team that can demonstrate exceptional design talent and creative flair. Sensitivity to the heritage of the existing building and its context will be crucial as will the ability to design and deliver complex projects working in collaboration with the client and wider team. Most importantly, we want to identify people and organisations that excite and inspire us and can open our eyes to the potential of the spaces within the Sainsbury Wing and the public realm.’


More information about the design team selection process including the full brief can be found here:

The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. Admission free. More at

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Tracy Jones, Head of Press, PR and Public Affairs, The National Gallery -  |  +44 (0)7785 525909

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