As I passed by the locked and boarded front gate during the last six years I often wondered ‘When will it be open?’ The National Gallery had opened in 1864 and it was no surprise that serious work needed to be carried out to allow it to continue in the most positive way for another hundred and fifty years. The removal of old and worn, parts and their sympathetic replacement with modern, state-of-the-art materials was essential, and took time. That’s understandable and the result, I must admit, has been spectacular.
The gallery is a place that I know well having being a regular visitors for many, many years. The Millennium Wing that was opened in 2002 is a great addition and gives a modern feel to the place. And now with the extra space available the gallery can have more of its works (there are more than 16,300 works of art, comprising: paintings, sculpture, objets d’art and works on paper) on show – almost 650 items. And, of course, its size and popularity allows it to attract works from international galleries.
The recently completed work in the Dargan and Milltown wings has been suitably praised, and rightly so. There is much to see and enjoy here, and my own favourite was a complete and wonderful surprise. Knowing the gallery I did not expect to find the atrium that, on the sunny day when I was there, was seen at its best. The beautiful space had been ‘hidden away’ but its revelation is a real treat and the sculpture at its centre, Magnus Modus (by Joseph Walsh), will bring a smile. It’s a must-see!