CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

National Gallery London Presents Newly Cleaned Facade

As part of the National Gallery’s 200th anniversary celebrations, the external facade overlooking Trafalgar Square has been cleaned and restored.

Over the last three years the external facade has undergone a major cleaning and refurbishment program. With the final scaffolding down, the building looks as fresh and clean as it did when the National Gallery formally opened to the public in 1838 after its foundation in 1824.

South-east corner of the facade of the National Gallery Wilkins Building taken from the steps of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields before cleaning in July 2023.

Photo after cleaning in January 2024. Both photos: National Gallery

The front of the building is clad in Portland stone – a relatively soft and porous natural material mined from Portland Bill, the southernmost point of Dorset. The challenge for conservation specialists was to clean the building but without removing the patina of age, while conserving as much as possible of the original elements. Being located in central London, the Museum exterior is impacted from air pollution and the urban environment. The facade was last refurbished in the early 1980s.

In some cases, cleaning also made clear the need for repairs, in places where the watertightness of the facade was either already compromised, or if left, would have made the stone at risk of further damage. Unless strictly necessary, missing stone parts were not rebuilt and replaced.

The costs associated with the cleaning and conservation work of the Gallery’s facades have been generously covered by Julia and Hans Rausing.