'Monarch of the Glen' on tour

June 2 2017

Image of 'Monarch of the Glen' on tour

Picture: BBC

The National Gallery of Scotland's successful acquisition of the Monarch of the Glen has gone down well up here in Scotland - and was even made possible by direct funding from the Scottish government. The picture will now go on a Scotland-wide tour, which is excellent news. The painting even now has its own dedicated tour manager, like a rock star. Details of the venues and dates can be found here

Meanwhile, the National Gallery of Scotland has announced a dramatic scaling back of its extension plans, which only received the green light in January this year. The original scheme was to create a new section of the gallery dedicated to Scottish art, partly by building out over the railway line which runs beneath the gallery. But now that has been ditched as too expensive and difficult - and instead the Scottish art will be hung amongst the Old Masters in the main galleries. You can read below the spin put on the new plans by the NGS, but there seems to be little doubt that the whole thing is a rather embarrassing about turn. It's rare for a major museum's expansion plans to unravel so quickly, and so publicly. The trustees don't seem to know whether they're coming or going, and evidently didn't scrutinise the original plans properly.

Celebrating Scotland’s Art: The Scottish National Gallery Project is an ambitious project to transform the presentation of the world’s greatest collection of Scottish Art for twenty-first-century audiences. Back in March, the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) announced that some aspects of the construction were more complex and expensive than originally anticipated. 

A revised scheme for Celebrating Scotland’s Art has now been approved by NGS Trustees. The original vision and aims of the Project remain in place including the key objectives to raise the profile of Scottish Art and greatly enhance its presentation, as well as deliver optimal circulation within the Scottish National Gallery and transform the visitor experience.

In order for the Project to remain close to the original £16.8 million budget some aspects of the plan have been modified. The main difference is that we will no longer extend into East Princes Street Gardens. The original proposal to build out by an additional five metres would have increased further the available display space: the new galleries will still represent a doubling of the existing space to be dedicated to Scottish art in this area of the building. However, removing this aspect of the construction reduces the cost significantly and also lessens the risks involved in what was an extremely complex engineering problem, extending the building above the main-line railway tunnels.

The Trustees have also decided that there should be a reconsideration of how the collection is displayed within the Scottish National Gallery as a whole, to ensure that Scottish art is presented alongside the international displays. This will mean a completely new presentation of the Scottish National Gallery and an entirely different visitor experience to the site.

Sir John Leighton, Director-General, National Galleries of Scotland commented: “NGS looks after an amazing collection of Scottish art and our aim is to provide these works of art with the world-class showcase that they deserve. As with any venture, this project has its fair share of challenges but we are delighted that we can now move forward with plans that maintain our ambition to completely transform the presentation of Scottish art and the experience of visitors to the Scottish National Gallery.” 

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said: “I welcome the steps National Galleries Scotland has taken to ensure this ambitious project can be delivered in line with the development’s original aims. Celebrating Scotland’s Art will significantly enhance the visitor experience at this already top-rated attraction, encourage even more people to access and enjoy its iconic collections, and raise the international profile of Scottish Art.”

All of the other elements of the original Project will go ahead as planned including the creation of attractive new Galleries at the Gardens level, new circulation routes within the site and new landscaping within East Princes Street Gardens to facilitate entry into Princes Street Gardens as a whole and the Scottish National Gallery’s Gardens level entrance.

These changes mean that further design work will need to be carried out and new statutory approvals may also be required. The estimated completion date for the project has shifted therefore from 2019 to 2020. The aim is to keep as close as possible to the original budget although there will be cost and expenditure implications from the longer programme and extra design and project requirements. The exact costs will be determined in due course.

The press release makes no mention of whether the curators at the NGS, who were evicted to make room for the extension, will now be allowed back in. Here's hoping...

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