The new shop at the National Gallery is no ordinary refurbishment – it’s a complete transformation of prime real estate within our Gallery in central London.
The Portico Shop was last refurbished back in 2013 and after 10 long and busy years, and with a big birthday celebration on the horizon, it was time for a refresh. However, rather than a simple lick of paint and fixture upgrade we took the opportunity to really think what would bring this store up a new level ahead of all our exciting plans for our Gallery Bicentenary celebrations next year and also in time for our much anticipated After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art exhibition that opened recently.
As with any significant investment, we went out to tender and appointed award-winning Lumsden Design, who not only matched but exceeded the brief with their expertise and experience in the retail and cultural sectors. Working with Lumsden was a truly collaborative experience, from the day of appointment the team immersed themselves into the world of the National Gallery working closely with stakeholders from across the organisation to ensure we were capturing the heart of the organisation and celebrating our fantastic collection at every opportunity. Over a period of six months ideas were brainstormed, frustrations heard, and concepts formed. All of this whilst never losing sight of our overarching aim, to create a celebration of our collection.
By autumn 2022 the designs were signed off, contractors were appointed and then the physical work began to realise the ambition. We closed the shop for almost 2 months, and day by day we saw the space change from what could have been any number of gift shops, to a seamless extension of the National Gallery, connecting people with great art through a multi-sensory, three-dimensional shopping experience. We’ve combined scale and influences from the paintings hanging in our collection, the stunning architecture of our 19th century building, conservation techniques from our skilled colleagues, and materials in the fabric of our Gallery.
As you come through any of the three entrances of the shop, we draw you in with large-scale 3.5m illuminated panels. Each one showcasing a crop of some of the best-known paintings ever created including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888), Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond (1899), and Rousseau’s Surprised! (1891). You can see the methods, the detailed brushstrokes, the pigments, all up close and enlarged.
Additionally, we took inspiration from the intricate details from the wallpapers in the Gallery, the marble from the columns and pillars and the deep heritage of the building itself. Alongside this celebration of our history, we also included moments of playfulness and fun using animation and modern digital techniques in key areas throughout the space. At the back of the shop we have a stunning animation inspired by Bosschaert’s A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase (1609-10), it draws you in with a clever illusion of flowing light. Practically we’ve added in moveable, rotatable and sustainable fixtures, so we can mix and match as new ranges come in.
My initial brief for the Lumsden team was a simple one, to set a new standard for cultural enterprises. I can confidently say they have achieved this and so much more. It is hard to believe this is the same shop, the transformation is to be seen to be believed. The bold interventions, the clear mapping of the visitor routes through the space and the playful use of AV have not only enhanced the link between the retail space and the wider Gallery but have helped to create a more immersive and coherent shopping environment. I’m proud of what we have achieved with our colleagues here and at Lumsden Design, and hope you get to come and have a look for yourselves.