New Scottish galleries at the National to open this weekend

Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo Da Vinci was stolen but has now been recovered and can be seen in the National Gallery.

By Bill Heaney

The National Galleries of Scotland is delighted to announce that the stunning new Scottish galleries at the National will open to the public this Saturday (30 September 2023).

A free experience for everyone to enjoy, right in the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre, the new Scottish galleries at the National showcase the very best historic Scottish art.

You can view works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Boys and displays of drawings and sketches will celebrate artists such as Glasgow Style pioneer Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, who was married to her husband, Charles, in St Augustine’s Scottish Episcopal Church in Dumbarton High Street.

The famous couple lived for a time in Bowling at Dunglass Castle, overlooking the River Clyde.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was, of course, the person who designed Glasgow School of Art, The Hill House in Helensburgh and Scotland Street School in Kinning Park.

With 150 years of Scotland’s art to discover in the contemporary and fresh new spaces, visitors are sure to recognise some much-loved favourites as they travel through the galleries.

Transforming the visitor experience and more than doubling the physical display space, 12 breathtaking galleries allow visitors to dive into dramatic landscapes, encounter iconic images and be wowed by art from 1800 to 1945.

Spectacular views over the city entice visitors to come in and discover the work of pioneering Scottish artists such as William McTaggart, Anne Redpath, Phoebe Anna Traquair, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Boys.

The new Scottish galleries at the National will bring the nation’s artistic heritage to life – from much-loved Scottish Colourists as well as major works from the first half of the twentieth century to stellar works from the early 1800s onwards.

New ways of looking at Scotland’s natural and built environments will be on offer, with early photographs of Scotland’s capital city shown in the same spaces as grand paintings of majestic Highland landscapes, including works such as Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen.

Re imagined displays of drawings and sketches will celebrate artists such as Glasgow Style pioneer Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh and Alloa-born David Allan, whose depictions of ‘Edinburgh Characters’ will allow visitors to get up close to street life in the Scottish capital in the late eighteenth century.

The new galleries are easier to access than ever before, to ensure that the greatest number of people can discover the fascinating Scottish art on display. They have an accessible path in east Princes Street Gardens, new lifts, a partial changing place facility, accessible entrance, accessible toilets and a pram store.

These fresh new spaces will showcase the nation’s magnificent collection of historic Scottish art in new and engaging ways. With a series of new trails, audio guides and events, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

With even more to explore across the National, there will also be five new international hangs at the Mound level to enjoy, offering in total over 460 artworks to discover. These galleries feature international superstars such as Poussin, Gauguin, Monet, Chardin and Canaletto.

The new Scottish galleries at the National also includes three new areas specifically designed to display drawings and other fragile artworks, which will change regularly throughout the year.

Sir John Leighton, Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “With this project we set out to transform the experience of visiting the National and to show the world’s greatest collection of Scottish art with real pride and ambition. With the new Scottish galleries at the National, we have achieved these aims and more. The gallery is more accessible than ever before and there is a stunning new display of 150 years of Scottish art in all its richness and depth. From this Saturday, everyone is welcome to discover a brilliant new experience, free, in the heart of our nation’s capital.”  

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said: “The National Galleries of Scotland has the world’s finest collection of Scottish Art and I’m delighted that the new galleries will now have space to showcase this to a national and international audience. We have supported this redevelopment project from the start with a significant contribution of £15.25 million and it’s wonderful to see the new galleries open, allowing everyone to enjoy them.” 

Caroline Clark, The National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland said: “National Galleries of Scotland have created a truly world-class facility showcasing Scotland’s distinctive and internationally important artistic heritage. This iconic building at the heart of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site is safeguarded for the future, creating a focus for our cultural and economic renewal. We are proud and excited to welcome the world to Edinburgh to enjoy the new galleries. We believe heritage helps us to understand who we are and where we are from; and so, we join with the National Galleries of Scotland in declaring this is a place for the people of Scotland. Our support for this project is thanks to National Lottery players and we encourage them to visit as soon and often as they can.” 

The total project cost is £38.62 million. This has been funded by major contributions from the Scottish Government (£15.25m) and The National Lottery Heritage Fund (£6.89 million). An extremely successful fundraising campaign raised over £16m thanks to an extraordinarily generous response in donations from trusts, foundations, Patrons, the National Galleries of Scotland’s Friends organisation, American Patrons and a wide range of private individuals.

Leave a Reply