Outdoor Portrait Gallery set for George Street

John Byrne's portrait of Robbie Coltrane
John Byrne's portrait of Robbie Coltrane
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AN outdoor exhibition is set to promote the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s finest collections, as new figures revealed a huge surge in visitor numbers.

The attraction is expected to install reproductions of its most popular works in George Street this summer.

Ronnie Corbett's portrait is popular

Ronnie Corbett's portrait is popular

High-resolution vinyl panels will aim to direct visitors to the site while heavy tram works on York Place continue.

Despite the disruption, bosses at the Queen Street gallery said 2012 saw a 40 per cent rise in visitor numbers after a £17.6 million refurbishment to Sir Robert Rowand Anderson’s iconic building between 2009 and 2011.

Figures show 327,980 visitors flocked to the portrait space, built in the sandstone Gothic revival style.

Proposals to promote the gallery are part of a new drive to create an open air “cultural corridor” selling Fringe acts and the arts on George Street by August. The ongoing Edinburgh Science Festival photography exhibition in St Andrew Square attracts thousands of visitors to the area each year, boosting local businesses.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which represents 600 city centre businesses, said the plans were hugely exciting: “We have been talking to National Portrait Gallery about them getting involved, they could exhibit a mini-gallery of panels from their most eye-catching work.

“This worked well with the science festival and could be something we replicate with the gallery. They would take their more iconic pictures –reproductions, of course – and you can get high-quality resolution panels that you can make weather-proof, and to some extent vandal-proof, with vinyl. A sign would accompany it saying ‘National Portrait Gallerty 200 yards from here’. It would be a taster menu.”

Under the ambitious plans to alter George Street – as revealed by the Evening News on Saturday – traffic would be limited to encourage a continental-style atmosphere of al fresco dining amid pockets of vibrant entertainment.

A gallery spokesman said discussions were at an early stage but it was in talks with the festival about the plans to pedestrianise George Street.