Celebrate the National Gallery bicentenary this year

People gathered around front door of National Gallery Trafalgar Square

As the National Gallery prepares to celebrate its bicentenary, art enthusiasts across the UK are set to be treated to an extraordinary range of exhibitions, events, and interactive experiences. Titled “National Treasures,” the commemorative programme will see twelve of the National Gallery’s most cherished paintings journey to museums and galleries in each region of England, and each nation of the UK.

The programme, generously supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation and other donors, promises to engage local communities in a celebration of art and heritage. Digital content will also be readily available on Bloomberg Connects, ensuring that these treasures can be appreciated by a global audience.

National Gallery UK scaled

From Turner’s “The Fighting Temeraire” centring a major exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, to Monet’s “The Water Lily Pond” inspiring a contemporary commission at York Art Gallery, each masterpiece will serve as a catalyst for exploration and learning. The projects vary widely in theme and approach; the Leicester Museum and Gallery, for instance, will utilise Renoir’s “Umbrellas” to create a digital installation that will transport viewers to the bustling streets of 1880s Paris.

The programme also seeks to engage young audiences, as evidenced by Brighton Museum and Art Gallery’s innovative project. Utilising Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait,” local 13–16-year-olds will be invited to contemplate their future selves, culminating in a compelling photography display. Meanwhile, the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham will showcase a contemporary response to Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria,” demonstrating the ongoing influence of these historical works.

In an exciting addition to the programme, the National Gallery will be launching the “Art Road Trip” project, which will traverse the UK from May 2024 to May 2025. Working in collaboration with local communities, this initiative aims to champion those with limited access to the visual arts, bringing stimulating art experiences directly to their doorstep.

To support the ambitious “National Treasures” and broader NG200 programme, a match funding commitment has been announced, which could potentially double any donation made towards the Bicentenary up to the value of £3 million. As the final phase of a £95 million fundraising campaign, this initiative aims to secure the remaining required £10 million.

Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming celebrations: “As the National Gallery approaches its third century of bringing people and paintings together, we are thrilled to be sharing twelve of our greatest masterpieces with museums across the UK. Over half of the UK’s population will be within one hour’s travel of a National Gallery painting and we hope that many, many people will visit our museum partners and participate in their exciting programmes.”

With 200 days to go until the bicentenary, the National Gallery’s “National Treasures” programme promises a truly memorable year of artistic celebration and community engagement. Whether experienced in person or via the digital offerings, art lovers across the UK and beyond are in for a treat.