Finaldi's plans for the National Gallery

February 24 2016

Image of Finaldi's plans for the National Gallery

Picture: National Gallery

In the New York Times, Farah Nayeri has a fascinating interview with both Gabriele Finaldi, the new National Gallery director, and Hannah Rothschild, the new head of the Trustees. Their plans to refresh and improve the National Gallery include a new website, and most excitingly of all renovation of the hotel behind the Gallery, in Orange Street.

Mr. Finaldi said he planned to revamp the museum’s website — Ms. Rothschild described it as “not good”; redevelop parts of the Trafalgar Square building, which dates to 1838; and put on three large exhibitions each year, instead of the current two. Among those planned, he said in the interview, are a show of Gauguin portraits in 2019. [...]

The next few years will also see some building work at the gallery. Sections of the East Wing, now used for storage and as a back-room area, will be redeveloped to provide more space for the staff, Mr. Finaldi said. Down the line, St. Vincent House, now occupied by staff, a hotel and other businesses, will be used to expand the gallery’s spaces, he added, noting that the museum has 50 percent more visitors than it did 20 years ago but the same floor space.

In terms of image resolution, the National Gallery's website is actually quite good; you can zoom into a high level. But navigation and overall presentation is pretty poor. There are many more things the site could do, in terms of videos and social media - both of which are vital if the Gallery wants to increase visitor numbers both online and in person. Of course, it's not just about how the site looks and works, but an ability to constantly put new and interesting material on it. The Gallery only has to look at The Met's website to see a good example of how these things should be done. 

I'm particularly pleased to see that the hotel site is to be redeveloped. This has belonged to the Gallery for many years. But the Trustees have until now (sadly) always preferred to see it as revenue supply, by letting it out as offices and a hotel - even though a look at the accounts reveals that the site is so old and dilapidated that much of the rent goes on upkeep. The building needs to be pulled down and rebuilt. If Tate can do it, why not the National Gallery?

But first, something probably needs to be done about the small road (St Martin's Street) seperating the Gallery and the Sainsbury Wing from the hotel site. It's a rather useless little street and hardly used by traffic - can the government not just cede the land to the Gallery, and build over the entire site?

We also learn in the New York Times piece that Dr Finaldi has moved a piano into his office.

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