Primary school children were the first through the doors of the National Portrait Gallery today, ahead of reopening on the 22 June. Invited as part of a Children’s Press Conference, with BBC Blue Peter’s cameras in attendance, the event gave children the chance to ask Director Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Architect Jamie Fobert, Senior Curator of Photography Sabina Jaskott-Gill and Artist Curtis Holder about portraiture, their favourite works in the Collection and the Gallery’s exciting new building project. 

Sabina Jaskott-Gill (Curator) explained how  there is a whole team of curators who have different specialties. Ranging from photography to paintings. That there is a lot of thought about the audience who come into the gallery to find something that they are really interested in.

Photo: © David Parry/ National Portrait Gallery

Coinciding with the Gallery’s highly anticipated reopening this week, the state-of-the-art learning facility, The Mildred and Simon Palley Learning Centre, will be a space for all learners to engage with the Gallery’s Collection and take part in creative programmes. National Portrait Gallery hosted unique Children’s Press Conference, providing children from schools across London with the opportunity to step into the shoes of journalists for a day. Guided by Blue Peter Presenter, Joel Mawhinney, children had the privilege of interviewing a panel of key people involved in the National Portrait Gallery’s transformation, reintroducing schools to the Gallery’s redesigned spaces and activities. 

Nicholas Cullinan (Director) points out that on display right now the gallery holds around 1,100 portraits. With over 11,000 paintings and sculptures and more than 100,000 photographs. He goes onto highlight how the team often rotate the artwork as if for example, it is a photograph, it can only be on display for so long otherwise it could fade. The gallery is continually adding new pieces to ensure there is a strong representation of key individuals within society, including tennis players. In terms of artists, Nicholas explains how the gallery incorporates artists from as far back as 600 years ago. Such as Holbein, who was the court artist for Henry IIIV.

Photo: © David Parry/ National Portrait Gallery

Developed by Jamie Fobert Architects and the Gallery’s Learning and Engagement team, the new Learning Centre will serve as a pivotal space for learning, hosting a range of creative programmes co-curated with artists for schools, young people, and adults. The Learning Centre will offer diverse events, including photography workshops and painting tutorials, making it an enriching destination for all visitors. Admission to exhibitions is free for Gallery Members and children under 12 years in family groups. 

Liz Smith, Director of Learning and Engagement at the National Portrait Gallery, expressed her enthusiasm for the new Learning Centre, stating, “We look forward to welcoming schools, families and learners of all ages into our brand-new space. Following its ambitious redevelopment, the Learning Centre is going to provide first-class studios and facilities for learners from across the country to enjoy exploring the Collection in new and exciting ways by working with artists and creatives.” 

Curtis Holder, Artist, shared his excitement about the Children’s Press Conference, saying, “I am really thrilled to be joining forces with NPG on their first-ever children’s press conference, allowing young adults to become journalists for a day. During my time as a teacher, I found it incredibly important to empower the younger generations by giving them the freedom to ask questions.”