Newest Review: ... I did realise should you be in Trafalgar Square on a hot, sticky day like it was on that day, it does provide a cheap, spontaneous respi... more
Lose the Crowds and Find Some Art
National Portrait Gallery (London)
Member Name: Goonerette89
National Portrait Gallery (London)
Date: 17/02/12, updated on 18/02/12 (37 review reads)
Advantages: Price, modern, staff are friendly.
London's 'National Portrait Gallery' first opened its doors in 1856; however in 1896 it moved to its current location just off Trafalgar Square, next to the National Gallery. According to its website at www.npg.org.uk, the gallery was created "to collect portraits of famous British men and women", which has since amounted to over 175,000 portraits from the sixteenth century to the present day. The gallery is open between the hours of 10am to 6pm everyday, except on Thursdays and Fridays when it remains open until 9pm. Exhibitions this year include one on Lucian Freud (currently on), the Queen and portraits of those contributing to the Olympic Games.
I first visited the National Portrait Gallery last summer with a friend. Sadly it is the only time I have ever been so I can only give you my experience on one exhibition and impression of it but I love art and the like, and if I complete my dream of moving back to London soon it is certainly somewhere I would love to visit consistently.
Although I was planning on visiting the gallery anyway, last July, I did realise should you be in Trafalgar Square on a hot, sticky day like it was on that day, it does provide a cheap, spontaneous respite to the central London heat and crowds.
We were staying just outside London so took a train up to Charing Cross station, the nearest one to the gallery, and walked from there. Upon arriving we asked to buy tickets to the exhibition and were provided them by an extremely friendly young lady. The exhibition was the old Hollywood one they ran between spring and autumn in 2011 and it cost us just £6 each. Good value! We walked down the corridor and stopped off at the toilets along the way; you may wonder why you need to know this but it's just to confirm they were very clean and accessible! On we went to the area of the gallery we required, and we showed our ticket to another nice girl by the door - boy, they don't hire plain looking staff, that's a certainty. Most of them were stunning continental girls, I couldn't help but notice. All the staff that I saw in the gallery were extremely kind and helpful as well. They seemed to have high standards in customer service and appearance.
It took us all of five minutes to get our tickets and enter. When we entered the room was fairly small but the exhibition was well set out, chronologically and with accompanying information about each photograph. Some I'd seen previously and some I hadn't. Being that it was relatively small, it did get a little annoying when there was someone behind you, naturally wanting to move on when you were still trying to read the writing besides the portrait. There were quite a few people at this exhibition but it wasn't unbearably overcrowded or anything. I was pleased that many of my favourites were featured there, some twice. Most portraits were as you'd expect in black and white and all very glamorous. It didn't feel like a big exhibition but there was enough to keep everyone satisfied and I enjoyed seeing every one of the portraits and information on them.
Afterwards we decided to go to the gift shop; unlike the exhibition, this was a lot more pricey. I managed to buy some postcards featuring some of the stars I'd seen at the exhibition. There were plenty of items I would have bought though: CDs, books and other little miscellaneous items. It's a shame a lot of them were slightly on the expensive side. In particular, they had a book which cost about £25, featuring beautifully, all the portraits from the exhibition. Just a shame as I decided not to bring too much money with me, otherwise I would have bought that and more.
Overall I enjoyed the trip to the gallery and certainly hope to return soon, either on a lone visit to the capital or when I have moved back there. Judging purely on this experience, it's not somewhere you could spend a whole day at, but it is a nice little stop off and so much cheaper than other places you could visit.
The gallery relies on funding, as a charity and people can donate via the website. People can become members which includes free exhibitions entries and other benefits such as discounts at the cafe, gift shop and book shop. The Duchess of Cambridge is its most famous patron, however the gallery's largest donation came from Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner who donated £5 million.
You, however, don't have to donate that much; but if you do want to help, then you can find more information about how, here:
Summary: Cheap exhibitions if you've an hour to spare in a London hotspot.
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