Landmark redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery unveiled


Visitors to the redeveloped Aberdeen Art Gallery have been promised a world class experience as the £34.6million project was unveiled today  to give a first glimpse of the completed venue. 

Anticipation is building in the final countdown to Saturday’s public opening of the jewel in Aberdeen’s cultural crown, with media tours this morning showcasing the meticulous redevelopment of the historic site by Aberdeen City Council. 

Aberdeen Art Gallery is home to one of the finest collections in the UK, including works by important Scottish artists, designers and makers such as Henry Raeburn, Joan Eardley, Samuel Peploe, Rachel McLean, Bill Gibb and James Cromar Watt, as well as nationally and internationally-acclaimed artists including Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin and Claude Monet. 

Councillor Jenny Laing, Co-Leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “From the outset the ambition was to create a world class visitor attraction and we are proud to have delivered that for the city and region.  

“The redeveloped Aberdeen Art Gallery will serve generations of residents and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from at home and abroad each year, providing a fitting home for the world-renowned collections we hold. Saturday’s public opening will be a landmark occasion for Aberdeen and we look forward to welcoming the first of many visitors.” 

The redevelopment, designed by Hoskins Architects, has dramatically increased the amount of display space for the nationally recognised collection, with the number of galleries increasing from 11 to 19, with a further three galleries presenting a programme of regularly changing special exhibitions. The number of items from the permanent collection on display has increased from 370 in 2015 to 1,080 in the redeveloped venue. Exhibition specialists Studioarc have been responsible for the design of the galleries, digital strategy and signage.  

The project’s major funders are Aberdeen City Council, which has pledged £14.6m from capital funds, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund with a £10m contribution. BP has donated £1m to the redevelopment project, with the BP Galleries to host three national and international exhibitions a year, and the UK Government awarded £1.5m from the HM Treasury Libor funds to support the major renovations in the Remembrance Hall. The total from the ongoing public fundraising programme, which is supported by the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums Development Trust, currently sits at £4.8m. 

Co-Leader Councillor Douglas Lumsden said: “The scale and pace of change we are seeing in Aberdeen at present is unparalleled in the city’s history and this week is a hugely important milestone.  

“As a Council we have pushed the boundaries in relation to what we aim to achieve and Aberdeen Art Gallery is a great symbol of the positive change taking place throughout the city. From the recent opening of The Event Complex Aberdeen to the investment in community facilities, the transformation is really gathering momentum and there are many more exciting developments to follow.” 

Visitor research has helped shape a fresh new approach to displaying the collection. The displays explore artists’ ideas and inspiration, their creative processes and the materials they use. A wide range of artforms and media, the use of colour, hands-on interactives, music, innovative display methods and engaging interpretive information combine to create a range of experiences, moods and stories for visitors.  

Councillor Marie Boulton, the Council’s culture spokesperson, said: “The reopening is the culmination of an incredibly important project, preserving the heritage of Aberdeen Art Gallery whilst creating a wonderful contemporary venue. 

“Crucially we are now able to display far more pieces from our fantastic collections and attract visiting exhibitions of the highest calibre. The redevelopment is a central part of a cultural revolution in Aberdeen, with investment in the fabric of venues such as the Gallery and Music Hall as well as in an events programme that has brought globally recognised attractions such as Nuart and Spectra to the city.” 

The project includes investment in the fabric of the buildings including a re-imagined Remembrance Hall, refurbished Cowdray Hall, new exhibition and collection display galleries, improved visitor facilities and an enhanced activity programme.  

Caroline Clark, Director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund Scotland, said: “I’m delighted that the north-east of Scotland now has a world-class gallery worthy of the exceptional art works it houses and that’s in a large part down to players of The National Lottery. Wonderful new exhibition spaces have been cleverly re-designed so that they bring the city’s treasures to life and are accessible to all. They will inspire visitors from near and far to explore the works of outstanding Scottish and international artists and the stories behind those collections.” 

Public access this weekend will be for ticket holders only. More than 5,500 free tickets were snapped up within hours of being released last month, with the timed slots in place to ensure the best experience for visitors. From Monday 4 November regular opening times will be 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free. 

The 130-year old Category-A listed building and its streetscape have been re-designed to meet the needs of all visitors, creating level access throughout and a passenger lift in addition to accessible toilets on all floors and a Changes Places Toilet which incorporates a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench and a hoist system. Other features include Induction hearing loops at points throughout the building, a British Sign Language (BSL) events programme beginning in December and a programme of Visual Description Tours from 2020. Dementia-Friendly events and will also be hosted and quiet time throughout the gallery will be designated on a Monday afternoon. 

The 2 November reopening will be the latest major date in the most significant period of transformation in the city’s history, with the Council’s £1billion capital programme changing the built environment and driving cultural change.  

Projects include the creation of a world class venue at The Event Complex Aberdeen, with the P&J Live events space at its heart, and the redevelopment of Union Terrace Gardens in the heart of the city. New roads, including the bypass and the Diamond Bridge, the creation of a unique visitor attraction at Provost Skene’s House, refurbishment of the iconic Music Hall, construction of the award-winning Marischal Square office and restaurant complex as part of the wider regeneration of Broad Street, are also integral to the ambitions for the city. 

For further information visit www.aagm.co.uk or news.aberdeencity.gov.uk .