The new West Wing is not to be missed. Previously office space, it may feel slightly ‘pokier’ compared to the larger galleries, but it is one of the building's best rooms due to the natural light flooding through its windows. Here, you’ll find a collection dedicated to the self-portraiture of women, many of which challenge the male gaze and present womanhood in unconventional ways. Moving onto the next room, you’ll find a further collection of contemporary portraits of people who make an impact on our life today, with royalty on show once again with a heart-warming photograph of the late Queen and Prince Philip. But Chantal Joffe’s self-portrait with her daughter Esme (2008) steals most visitor's attention here.
There’s plenty art to be admired throughout the NPG, with walls filled of important faces throughout the 20th century, from pop stars to politicians. Alongside its permanent collections, the Gallery’s first major exhibition to mark its reopening takes a look at the work of 20th-century female photographer Yevonde – a pioneer of colour photography. From the 28 June, never-seen-before photos of the Beatles, captured by Paul McCartney, will also be exhibited.
As is evident, diversity is the driving force behind the gallery’s transformation, most notably using more portraits of women in its 20th-21st century galleries (up 18% since pre-closure). According to the NPG opening press release, the main aim of the project was to ‘present an inclusive and dynamic picture of the people who have contributed to the rich history of the United Kingdom’. This rehang certainly felt like a breath of fresh air.
The National Portrait Gallery reopened to the public on Thursday 22 June.