Our transformative project to deliver an inspiring new space for Scotland’s renowned collection of Scottish art has passed a series of crucial milestones and the main construction work is on track to complete this winter. This means that members of the public can look forward to experiencing a brand-new suite of world-class galleries at the Scottish National Gallery in the summer of 2023.
The Scottish National Gallery Project will create a beautiful space for Scotland’s art right in the historic heart of Edinburgh, with striking displays drawn from the National Galleries of Scotland’s (NGS) broad-ranging collection alongside special loans from other leading arts institutions. Large windows will offer spectacular light-filled views across Princes Street Gardens, inviting visitors to come in and discover the work of pioneering Scottish artists such as Phoebe Anna Traquair, William McTaggart, Anne Redpath, Sir Henry Raeburn and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Stunning exhibition spaces will enable visitors to experience Scotland’s greatest art anew and feel pride in their national collection. Scotland’s artistic legacy will be revealed through innovative presentations, with much-loved Scottish Colourist paintings appearing among other major works from the first half of the twentieth century, bringing to life key aspects of Scottish art and society. New ways of looking at Scotland’s built and natural environments will be on offer, with early photographs of Scotland’s cities shown in the same spaces as grand paintings of majestic Highland and island landscapes. Reimagined displays of drawings and sketches will celebrate artists such as Glasgow Style pioneer Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh and David Allan, whose depictions of ‘Edinburgh Characters’ will allow visitors to get up close to street life in the capital in the late eighteenth century.
The teams working on the Scottish National Gallery project have been dealing with an incredibly challenging location, situated within a World Heritage Site which comprises an iconic A-listed nineteenth-century building with several major modern additions from the late 1960s onwards. The creation of new Gallery spaces has entailed extensive excavation underneath the existing building and its setting on the Mound. Unexpected remnants from previous developments added significant complexity to the building work. These include deeply buried layers of dense concrete and other undocumented obstructions which had to be extracted before major waterproofing works could be completed to protect the new development for the future. In addition, the location of a key area of the site directly above the three Mound rail tunnels, some of the busiest in Scotland, posed distinct logistical challenges. These challenges have all now been successfully overcome and the construction work is entering its final phase.
While construction has been ongoing, a wide programme of engagement and outreach for the Project has also been delivered, taking in schools in Fife, Orkney and West Lothian, social groups for older people experiencing loneliness in Edinburgh, and youth groups in the Borders. Digital activity has further extended the reach of the Project through a rich and engaging series of videos about star works of art from the Scottish collection, and a painstaking monumental conservation project gripped online audiences during lockdown.
The first phase of the Scottish National Gallery Project was completed successfully in 2019. This included a new entrance area in East Princes Street Gardens, a new café, refurbished restaurant and shop, an elegant sandstone terrace, and new landscaping and paths to improve access to the gardens and the Galleries.
Celebrating Scotland's art
While construction work is ongoing at the Scottish National Gallery we have been busy delivering a full programme of activities, inviting people to discover and connect with historic Scottish art.
Learn more about this exciting work and access a range of material that you can use to explore the Scottish art collection for yourself.