Nobody likes to work weekends – least of all me. However I really enjoyed spending a Saturday and Sunday back in the Gallery. We asked something like a thousand of our Friends and donors to have their first look at the renovated building and the response was fantastic.
The two days had been flawlessly organised by Gemma Forrest and Mollie Waugh who both work in the National Galleries’ Development Department. The ground floor felt a bit like the departure lounge of a modern airport with couples checking in and groups waiting patiently for their pilot and crew to take them up. I took seven groups around altogether, each tour lasting about an hour.
Before we closed there were two questions that I was frequently asked. ‘James, you’re not going to wreck the building, are you?’ was one. And I think everyone agreed that our architect Page/Park’s interventions have been a huge success whilst their renovations have revealed the clarity and strength of Rowand Anderson’s original, brilliant design. The second question was ‘would the cheese scones return?’ We won the Herald Scone of the Year Award some years back and those scones are legendary. ‘Yes,’ I could honestly say. ‘They will return’. Last week, too, we signed the contract with Heritage Portfolio who baked those scones for us before we closed and will start baking again in November.