PICTURE THIS

Interview:Sandy Nairne, CBE – Gallery director and writer.
Since 2002, he has been the director of the National Portrait Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery has an important and carefully managed relationship with its surroundings. We see ourselves as a celebration of the extraordinary and inspirational people that have graced our world. That celebration means that we operate as part of a wider West End experience. Our visitors come having enjoyed the chance to shop on Regent Street and on their way to enjoy a West End show. When Londoners and visitors walk around the West End of London they enjoy the experience of Leicester Square, the restaurants of Chinatown and then a visit to us, maybe to only see one painting, to meet a friend by Elizabeth I for example, before moving on. To enjoy the best that London has to offer. We are very conscious of being a good neighbour, our position is such that we interact with Leicester Square, Orange Street and Charing Cross Road. This means that we reach into Soho, Theatreland, St. James’s and towards Regent Street. As a free attraction, we want our visitors to immerse themselves in our portraits and exhibitions and take that inspiration to the rest of the surrounding area. That you can see a portrait of a film star on our walls and then a two minute walk away see them at a première in Leicester Square, is a perfect example of a symbiotic relationship between two central London institutions.

“As a free attraction we want our visitors to immerse themselves in our portraits and exhibitions”

Looking forward, the National Portrait Gallery will continue to excite and delight. We have become an important part of an evening in London with a destination restaurant and the evening openings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We will further embed ourselves within the London experience with more exceptional commissions and exhibitions and with the ability to constantly surprise – for instance, we have a National Portrait Gallery choir; this ability to deliver the unexpected is paramount to people enjoying this area of London.