Britain’s National Portrait Gallery reopens after 3-year renovation

The National Portrait Gallery in London reopened to the public on Thursday following a three-year closure for renovation, seeking to make its updated collection more “representative” of modern Britain.

An exhibition of previously unseen photographs by Paul McCartney is set to go on display following the refurbishment, which cost £41.3 million ($52.8 million) and saw the creation of public spaces, a new visitor entrance and a learning centre.

The gallery also sought to “readdress the balance of what we show, to make it more inclusive and representative of Britain today,” chief curator Alison Smith said.

She said that previously there were more portraits of men than women and now “48 percent of the works on display are female sitters”.

“We’ve actually made it more representative of Britain in terms of ethnicity, social class, disability,” Smith added.

British artist Tracey Emin was commissioned to create an art installation for the doors of the gallery’s new entrance, depicting 45 female portraits that have been cast in bronze from hand drawings.

Five self-portraits by female artists were also acquired to highlight the often overlooked stories of women who helped shape British history, the gallery said.

A collection of photographs taken by McCartney between 1963 and 1964 — showcasing how he captured Beatlemania through his own lens — is set to go on show from June 28.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, whose husband William is heir to King Charles III, on Tuesday officially reopened the gallery, of which she is royal patron.

First opened in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery moved to its current location near Trafalgar Square 40 years later.

Its collection houses thousands of portraits of famous and historically important British people, from Tudor monarchs to modern-day politicians and celebrities. — Agence France-Presse