november 2018

ME Construction makes room for Old Masters at the National Gallery

On 22nd March 2017 – a day when world media attention focused on events happening on nearby Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster – the National Gallery opened ‘Gallery B’ to the public. The first new gallery space created at the National Gallery for 26 years, Gallery B opened with an exhibition of 11 works of the Dutch artist, Rembrandt, and nine works by his Flemish counterpart, Rubens.

Additionally, dynamic drawings by contemporary painter Frank Auerbach, inspired by the works of Rembrandt and Rubens, were on view in Gallery B’s Lobby and Espresso Bar.
Gallery B – which was designed by architects Purcell and built by ME Construction – adds an extra 200 square metres of display space to the main Wilkins Building and opens up the ground floor. This creates a direct public route from the Portico Entrance on Trafalgar Square through to the Pigott Education Centre Entrance on Orange Street, at the rear of the Gallery.

Thanks to this new gallery space, which was created with the support of the Wolfson Foundation - an independent charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities - visitors can now enjoy a continuous viewing experience while exploring all of the Ground Floor Galleries and then progressing to the Main Floor. Moreover, the launch of Gallery B marks the daily opening of Gallery A which, previously, had only been open every Wednesday afternoon and one Sunday per month.

The Director of the National Gallery, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, said: “Gallery B is the first new gallery to open since the Sainsbury Wing was inaugurated in 1991. It provides the setting for an original display of works by two of the National Gallery’s titans, Rubens and Rembrandt.”

Constructing this new gallery was ME Construction’s fourth project in two years for the National Gallery. Taking 25 weeks to complete, ME Construction finished the work right on time – and the next day, National Gallery staff began preparing the Rubens and Rembrandt exhibition.

The £1.0m project involved ME Construction filling in existing voids within the structure, then Gyp-lining the walls with metal, ply and plasterboard to create a strong fixing for hanging the artworks being displayed there.

ME Construction’s Contracts Manager, Andy Howell, commented, “Not only was the National Gallery delighted with the work we did on developing Gallery B and refurbishing the lobby area but the project’s architects also commented that the finished job was a little too close to their artist’s idealised impressions of what the finished space should look like! To them, it all seemed almost too shiny, straight and perfect.”