The Scottish Government has agreed to bankroll a radical transformation of the nation’s flagship art gallery - after its display of Scotland’s most important paintings was branded “an institutional embarrassment.”
Ministers have pledged £2 million for a project expect to tackle long-standing complaints that the work of Scottish artists has been treated as “inferior” by the National Galleries of Scotland.
The securing of the funding means work can now start work to transform “cramped, dingy and unpleasant” exhibition spaces at the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound in Edinburgh.
Less than 20 per cent of visitors to the attraction - the busiest art gallery in the UK outside London - currently venture into the “dead end” spaces to see work by the likes of Allan Ramsay, Sir Henry Raeburn, Alexander Nasmyth and Phoebe Anna Traquair in recent years.
An overhaul and expansion of the gallery, which dates back to 1859, has already won backing to the tune of nearly £5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
However millions of pounds still has to be raised to ensure the £16.8 million “Celebrating Scotland’s Art” project is finished on time in the spring of 2019.
It is hoped an extra 400,000 visitors a year will flock to the attraction, which will boast three times as much exhibition space devoted to the story of Scottish art in future.
A new landscaped pathway and terrace will also be created in Princes Street Gardens to help encourage more visitors to enter from there.
A spokesman for the National Galleries of Scotland said: “We’re delighted that Scottish Government has confirmed its support for our major project to transform the presentation of our historic Scottish collection.
“The invaluable support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government will enable this exciting project to be realised and we look forward to working with partners and stakeholders throughout the city, across Scotland and internationally to bring the project to completion in the spring of 2019.
“The rest will come from a combination of fundraising from private sources, trusts and foundations and self-generated income.
“We have a number of substantial pledges in place already from private donors and we are extremely confident about raising the remainder of the required funds.
“We’re currently going through the procurement process for appointing the main contractor required and aim to begin work in the next couple of months.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Collection tells a valuable story of our nation’s history and culture, however with only 17 per cent of visitors making their way to the there, it is very much a hidden gem.
“This project will transform access to the Scottish Collection, tripling the gallery space available to present not just the great historical figures of Scotland, but also 20th century art, including the Colourists, showing it in a much more prominent way in architecturally distinguished spaces.
“The newly refurbished galleries will attract an estimated additional 400,000 visitors, ensuring thousands of more people can enjoy the very best of what Scotland has to offer.”