The National Portrait Gallery in London concludes a ten-year refurbishment programme this month, with the opening of the Regency-era Weldon Galleries, designed by Piers Gough of CZWG Architects.
The £1.2m project covers four galleries on the museum’s top-floor, originally built in the 1930s, that house exhibitions covering British history from the time of the French Revolution to the passing of the 1832 Reform Act.
NPG curator of 18th century collections Lucy Peltz says improving access and conservation were ‘two key strands’ of the brief, as well as bringing the space up to the standard of the rest of the gallery, both visually and technologically.
She adds, ‘Our [mission] is to tell the story of British history through portraiture, and that’s a quirky task – [we can] be more creative in how we communicate [than other major art galleries].’
Gough describes the revamp as ‘the palace hang’, restoring the existing Grade I-listed architecture and playing up its grandeur. A Regency flourish, inspired by the Brighton Pavilion, has been combined with the rooms’ slightly Art Deco-ish feel, Gough suggests.
Previously carpeted oak floors have been restored, while the black Belgian marble door casements, skirtings and borders have become some of the most striking features of the space. At the entrance to the galleries a sculpture appears to float above the floor. To mark the galleries’ terminal boundary, Gough has introduced two slot windows into the end wall of the largest room.
CZWG also designed four display cases with manufacturer Hahn Constable to showcase light-sensitive miniatures. These present exhibits at an angle and only illuminate as the viewer approaches.
The Weldon Galleries open to the public on 20 May. Print material has been designed in-house by NPG head of design Jude Simmonds.