Newest Review: ... It's not next to the other galleries on Princes Street/Mound or Belford Road. It is in fact quite a short walk from the main bus sta... more
Our other national gallery
Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Edinburgh)
Member Name: steves001
Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Edinburgh)
Date: 04/04/12, updated on 07/04/12 (66 review reads)
Advantages: Free admission; impressive architecture and features; excellent collections & facilities
Disadvantages: Distance from some parts of the UK, perhaps?
Formerly somewhat overshadowed by our other National Galleries, north and south of the border, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has undergone a dramatic transformation recently. It reopened last December following an extensive (and expensive) redevelopment project, and the extended space open to the public is now much more accessible and welcoming.
I wasn't surprised to learn that this gallery has just been nominated for the Art Fund Prize 2012, the UK's 'museum of the year' award. Apart from the building itself, as now revealed, what impressed me most was its novel interpretation of portraiture as 'people, places and events'.
It's a fascinating take on celebrity and ancestry, but there's far more to see here than the traditional paintings of famous Scots. For example, it includes the Scottish national collection of photography, and the 'Hot Scots' display includes the likes of Karen Gillan and David Tennant from Dr Who.
~~A trip to the Gallery~~
My recent two hour visit barely scratched the surface of what the gallery has to offer, and I plan to return soon to explore further.
Anyone else planning a trip should be aware of an apparent glitch with Google Maps that might have caused me problems had I not already been aware of the gallery's location. It's not next to the other galleries on Princes Street/Mound or Belford Road. It is in fact quite a short walk from the main bus station and not far from Waverley (train) station. There are also multi-storey car parks near the bus station. See full address below.
~~The 'new' building~~
Like so many recent renovation projects, this has been a delicate balancing act between modernising and preserving the best of the architectural heritage. The neo-gothic building may not be to everyone's taste but certainly retains its imposing presence in Edinburgh's New Town. The mainly warm red brick structure contrasts quite strikingly with the predominantly stone facades of the area, reminding me a little of St Pancras.
Having just reviewed the Scotsman newspaper on this site, I was interested to read that the gallery was originally championed by the eminent historian Thomas Carlyle; but the building was only made possible through the philanthropy of a former Scotsman proprietor, John Ritchie Findlay. Edinburgh's Queen Street premises finally opened in 1889, shortly after the famous London Gallery moved to its present location near Trafalgar Square.
The interior is if anything more impressive, with stunning architectural features, brightly presented galleries, exhibition spaces and an accessible library with some interesting objects. I was particularly taken with the Great Hall and its unique pageant/frieze. This immediately strikes you as you enter the building but I found it best viewed from the first floor balcony. But ultimately it's the collections that really justify the cost of the building.
~~Portraits and much more~~
Apparently the Scottish National Galleries permanent collection contains more than 65,000 items. With the opening up of the Portrait Gallery, 60% more of its treasures are on display than before - which I can well believe! But I was also struck by the number and variety of exhibitions on offer here - currently 17.
This brief review can't begin to do justice to the scope of the gallery. But for some insight and highlights I'd thoroughly recommend visiting their excellent website - see address below.
Meanwhile, suffice it to say, this attraction is not just about stuffy portraits of Scots 'worthies', though these are very well represented. In addition to portraiture, my initial visit took in the full spectrum of maps, prints, photographs, sculptures, landscape art and more besides. It's also bang up to date.
I appreciated the arrangement by broad themes and trails and was particularly entertained by the trail entitled 'Fur Coat an' Nae Knickers'. Nothing stuffy about this attraction!
The touch-screen information systems are also well worthwhile and truly imaginative. For other ways to explore and interact with this innovative gallery, visit its website (address below) or, better still, visit in person!
~~Cost and access~~
Admission is free. While a charge may be made for special exhibitions, I didn't actually come across this.
Facilities for disabled visitors include wheelchair accessibility throughout, a specially adapted lift and toilet.
~~Other facilities and activities~~
*Café - large and well stocked
*Gift Shop - not fully explored on this occasion but the books looked particularly interesting and informative
*Events - currently 34 advertised events for adults, children and families
*Educational - 'extensive learning and outreach programmes'
The gallery is open daily from 10am to 5pm (7pm on Thursdays).
~~Address & Contact info~~
*Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD
*Website : www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/298-intr​ ;oduction
*Phone : +44 (0)131 624 6200
*email : email@example.com
[© SteveS001 2012. A version of this original review may appear on other review sites]
Summary: Much more than 'just' a portrait gallery
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