After an unprecedented 111 days with its doors closed, the National Gallery began welcoming visitors again on 8 July, making it the first major national art museum to reopen in the UK following the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We have made the decision to reopen based on government guidelines as we want to reunite the nation with its collection,” says one spokesperson for the Gallery.
It’ll be as safe as humanly possible, with lots of extra sanitisation and distancing measures in place, and you’ll need to book in advance even for free entry. Opening hours are temporarily shortened to 11am-4pm most days except Fridays, which are 11am-9pm. The Getty Shop will be open, as will the National Café for takeaway service.
Most importantly – what can you see? Room 32: the Gallery’s largest and one of the most visited rooms, will display 17th century Italian paintings by artists including Caravaggio, Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi, Guido Reni and Guercino. There will be a number of newly-acquired paintings – Liotard’s ‘The Lavergne Family Breakfast’ (1754), Gainsborough’s ‘Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough holding a Theorbo’ (about 1777) and Sorolla’s ‘The Drunkard, Zaraúz’ (1910).
The newly restored ‘Equestrian Portrait of Charles I’ by Van Dyck (about 1637/8) will be back on show in Room 21 after more than two years. This monumental work has been off display since September 2017 undergoing conservation. Look out for some new and ambitious hangs in the Dutch and British collections, including the two works by Turner (‘Dido building Carthage’ (1815) and ‘Sun rising through Vapour ‘(before 1807)) that are always hung together with ‘A Seaport’ (1644) and ‘The Mill’ (1648) by Claude in accordance with Turner’s will, relocated from Room 15 to the dramatic setting of the Barry Rooms.
Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London says: “We want to be a part of the nation’s recovery story and by opening the doors and letting the public back in to see our inspiring pictures.”
Perhaps most impressively of all, The National Gallery continues to work on bringing its pictures (free) to those who can’t visit in person at the moment, via the major digital programme it launched after the doors in Trafalgar Square temporarily shut. The collection includes works by Botticelli, van Eyck, Leonardo, Memling, Michelangelo, Raphael, Piero, Uccello, Hogarth, Holbein, Monet, Seurat, Turner and Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Rubens, Velázquez, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Monet, Seurat, Turner and Van Gogh.
Visit www.nationalgallery.org.uk to book. Members go free to Titian and other exhibitions.