The National Gallery London reopens

  • Rosie Fitter

I was invited to the Press View of the National Gallery following its period of closure due to COVID-19.

The National Gallery London reopens

Rosie Fitter

THE National Gallery reopened its doors to the public yesterday following a period of closure due to Covid-19. In addition to this opening, the long-awaited Room 32 was revealed following a 21-month refurbishment. Glass was invited to the press view which happened on Saturday and experienced a taste of what is to come for galleries nationwide.

Instead of navigating the clamouring crowds, visitors were regulated to a one-way system, outlined by a series of arrows on the floor. Entering the gallery for the press view was an insight into what experiencing art will be like in the coming months. The new normal leitmotif that ricochets through our times here felt like a sorry alternative to the usual animated atmosphere of the National Gallery. Nonetheless, in the company of Ruebens, Klimts and Titians, the quietness allowed a sense of mediation that cannot normally be obtained amidst tour groups and sightseers.

The maroon cloth walls of the newly renovated room 32 provided a moody backdrop to the intense chiaroscuro of Caravaggio’s candlelit scenes. The gold leaf detailing adorning the folia on the column capitals illuminated the frieze and raised your eyes skyward to the new conservatory roof and shining lunettes.This was a renovation made possible through the generous support of Julia and Hans Rausing – in an effort to reinstate the original decorative scheme of its architect, Edward M Barry. As part of the Italian Baroque collection, the ornate space adds to the Gallery’s rich baroque décor – a room big enough to accommodate Covid mandates while still appreciating the splendour of elaborate ornament.

These times prescribe isolation as an antidote to many things – perhaps we can see this period of remoteness as one of reflection, one that allows us the luxury of contemplating the works of great masters in quiet seclusion.
by Rosie Fitter

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