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Scottish National Portrait Gallery competing to be UK’s best

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh is in one of four places in contention for Britain’s richest art prize after its £17.6 million revamp.

The gallery has fought off competition from the National Museum of Scotland and Glasgow’s new Riverside Museum to become a finalist for the Art Fund Prize. It was closed for two years during its dramatic refurbishment and is up against the George Frederic Watts Museum in Surrey, Barbara Hepworth gallery in Yorkshire and the redevelopment of Exeter’s main museum.

The winning museum or gallery will be awarded a £100,000 prize by the Art Fund charity. The refurbishment has increased the amount of gallery space by 50 per cent and has 17 separate spaces where the gallery’s 30,000-strong collection can be viewed.

Former director of the gallery James Holloway said: “Not only has this extraordinary Gothic building been brought beautifully to life, but the exhibition displays reveal an intelligent and thoughtful account of both the genre of portraiture, and the nature of Scottish identity.

“It’s certainly an impressive achievement, but whether it can beat off stiff competition from the other three outstanding contenders remains to be seen.”

Director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, John Leighton, said: “We are thrilled to hear the Scottish National Portrait Gallery has been shortlisted for the Art Fund Prize this year.

“There have been some extra-ordinary developments in the museums and galleries across Scotland and the rest of the UK in the last year, and we are very pleased and honoured to make the shortlist in such a strong field.

“We tried to rethink what a portrait gallery could mean for people in the 21st century.

“It was important for us to refurbish the building and make it much more accessible and coherent for our visitors; but it was equally important for us to transform the way we present the collections, offering, we hope, a much more vivid and engaging portrait of Scotland past and present.”

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